Columbus, Heritage Academy, West Point, Noxubee County, and West Oktibbeha were among the local winners Friday night as the 2010 prep football season kicked off in earnest.
The clarity might be the first thing you notice. Even though you're several hundred feet away from the practice field, the words reverberate sharply and cause you to pick up your pace. As you turn the corner, the words slam into you, prompting you to break into a sprint. You hustle into place and hope today is a good day and that he doesn't single you out because, truth be told, he is loud and the words can get caught up in the helmet and stay with you for a while.
STARKVILLE -- Jamie Mitchell isn't the only coach who has noticed a difference in the Starkville Yellow Jackets. Tyrone Shorter, the coach of the Jackets' opponent, Noxubee County, tonight, has had plenty of opportunities to see Mitchell's players grow from shell-shocked athletes to jamboree door-busters. From the Yellow Jackets' spring game through summer 7-on-7 games hosted by Starkville, Shorter has seen similarities between the Yellow Jackets and the teams Mitchell coached at Itawamba Agricultural High.
WEST POINT -- The names change most every year. The coaches tinker and tweak positions and schemes. But the more changes that appear to hit the West Point High School football program, the more it keeps producing teams that contend for state championships. The 2010 edition doesn't figure to be any different.
One team is building toward a repeat. The other is building toward respectability. Even though it is only August, the New Hope and Columbus high school slow-pitch softball teams showed Thursday they have plenty to look forward to this season. D.J. Sanders had four hits, including three doubles, to lead a 17-hit attack in New Hope's 13-5 victory at Lady Trojan Field.
STARKVILLE -- Starkville High School's cross country team has its sights set on crashing Class 6A's top four with a revamped squad of returnees and transfer talent. The Yellow Jackets had two runners finish in the top 50 at last season's 6A state meet, but with the additions of Starkville Academy transfer Joseph MacGown and transfer Kamau Bostic from Virginia, the team believes it's closer to the top of the mountain. MacGown was runner up at the 2009 Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA state meet.
ACKERMAN -- The 2010 high school football season in the state of Mississippi nearly opened with a shocker. But Dakota Brasher helped script the ending many expected -- albeit it was much more difficult than expected. Brasher's 6-yard touchdown run and K.J. Woods' conversion run in overtime helped Ackerman High School rally for an 8-6 victory against Starkville Academy on Thursday night.
STARKVILLE -- The genesis of Starkville Academy's 2009 football misery, preparing for Ackerman High doesn't feel like déjà vu one year later. It's an interesting approach because for the second year in row players and coaches are positive the team can achieve a favorable result against the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 2A power.
STARKVILLE -- With nine seniors, it's easy to hang hopes on your most experienced players. But when that one third of your team's key players piloted the ship to a four-win season a year ago, you're pinning even more hope on that group taking a bigger step toward title-winning form.
Friday night is showtime for the West Lowndes High School football team. At some point this season, coach Bobby Berry hopes the Panthers' play graduates to capital letter status. For now, though, the veteran coach would like to see his players back up all of their talk on the field. It's not that West Lowndes has been burning the phone lines with fabulous boasts. Berry is just eager to see his players prove to him their confidence -- and potential -- is real.
Leroy Gregg has coached high school football teams that have gone through a season without any injuries. Gregg hopes he has that same good fortune this season. With only 17 players on his roster, the third-year Oak Hill Academy coach knows the 2010 campaign will be challenging. After two solid showings in the preseason, Gregg and the Raiders will make their debut at 7 p.m. Friday when they play host to Heritage Academy.
In a unique twist Thursday night, Dwight Bowling will be a visitor in his hometown. Bowling faces the task of coaching a visiting team in his hometown of Smithville when he leads the Sulligent Blue Devils against the Smithville Seminoles. Bowling embarks on his fifth season as Sulligent's coach and will roam visitor's sideline at Smithville for the first time after being on the other side of the field for 28 years as the coach of the Seminoles.
STARKVILLE -- Julianne Jackson has had a lot of responsibility for the Starkville Academy softball team this season. She's handled the bulk of the pitching duties for the first time in her career and spent numerous hours trying to perfect a swing that hadn't previously utilized her power. Fifteen games into the season, she's the Lady Vols' No. 1 option in the circle and has become an effective pull-hitter and is currently the team's cleanup batter.
Ja'Bria Jones twisted her body to make a play. Playing two steps off the net, the middle blocker reached tentatively with her left hand in an effort to keep the ball alive. Jones did more than that. With a flick of her arm, the Columbus High School freshman sealed the deal with one final kill and helped her team defeat West Lowndes 3-2.
A year ago, South Lamar High School volleyball coach Karen Holsonback felt fortunate that her team didn't lose a match to rival Lamar County. Holsonback's team will attempt to continue its success against its rival Thursday when South Lamar hosts Lamar County in the first match of the season for both teams.
Anna McCrary thought her coach was crazy. Sure, she slugged a pitch to the bottom of the fence for an easy extra-base hit, but McCrary didn't think she was quick enough to make it home for an inside-the-park home run. Tabitha Beard thought differently.
STARKVILLE -- The New Hope High School football team showed last season it can win close games. The Trojans won rain-slogged efforts at Saltillo and at Clarksdale and equally tight games against Hernando and Indianola Gentry en route to a second-place finish in Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 1. Things were even better in the playoffs.
STARKVILLE -- New year, same old story for the West Point High School football team. Led by a 77-yard rushing effort from senior quarterback Justin Cox, West Point grinded it out for 251 yards Saturday en route t a 35-0 victory against Itawamba Agricultural High at the Fall Football Jamboree at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium. The rushing total was even more impressive considering the Green Wave, the defending Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A state champion, did in only two quarters of varsity action. Eight players had a chance to tote the ball, led by Cox and LaKenderic Thomas, who added 55 yards.
STARKVILLE -- Out of all the teams at the New Hope Fall jamboree, Starkville High School left the biggest stamp on Scott Field. Against three top offensive linemen recruits on a team that went 8-4 last season, the Yellow Jackets looked the like the polished, veteran team by beating Callaway 21-0 on Saturday. As for that vaunted Callaway offensive line? Just 31 rushing yards to show at the end of the two-quarter game.
3. Mixed reaction to decision to move MHSAA football title games HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Heritage Academy softball will try to take next step HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS