August 10, 2018 10:35:18 AM
When the final seconds ticked away at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last December, Starkville High School players and coaches could only wait for next year.
Starkville saw a fourth-quarter lead slip away in a loss to Pearl in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State championship game. A long offseason has been built around a mantra of "one more," whether that is one more rep in practice or another lift in the weight room.
At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Starkville finally will get its chance to make amends on a field when it takes on Louisville in a scrimmage at Yellow Jacket Stadium.
The two-day Louisville Jamboree was moved to the Starkville High campus due to weather concerns. Play begins tonight with West Lowndes facing Kemper County at 5:30 p.m. and Noxubee County facing Greenwood at 7:30 p.m.
"There is no bigger motivation in sports than finishing second," Starkville second-year coach Chris Jones said. "The guys know how hard they worked to finish second. Just a little bit more this year can get us over the top."
Jones' first squad finished 13-3. The Yellow Jackets return seven starters on both sides of the ball.
Also in Starkville, the annual New Hope Jamboree kicks off with three games Friday at Mississippi State's Davis Wade Stadium.
The marquee matchup will be at 6 p.m. when Lowndes County rivals Columbus and New Hope face off in a scrimmage.
Eric Rice will make his coaching debut with Columbus, while Wade Tackett will make his with New Hope.
Columbus, which is in Class 6A, and New Hope, which is in Class 4A, didn't meet last season. They also won't play each other in 2018.
"The players are ready to play," Rice said. "Two weeks does not sound like a lot of practice time. However, no coach is going to ever be totally satisfied with practice. It's time to put some players on tape. We can work on helping them getting better by watching them play."
For Starkville and Columbus, there are other similarities. Starkville sophomore quarterback Luke Altmyer will start Saturday after taking over midway through last season. Columbus junior quarterback Jaelen Craddeith also will start after taking over for the final third of last season.
In the late game at MSU, two-time reigning MHSAA Class 5A State champion West Point will get things going against North Panola.
The Green Wave will look to senior Jake Chambless at quarterback. The biggest challenge during the early stages of fall camp has been finding stability in the running game.
"We have a lot of candidates to run the ball and to catch the ball," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "Those areas have the most change for this upcoming season. Defensively, we should be ready to roll from the start of the season. Each year, the jamboree game has different meaning. This season, we need to look at some personnel and to look at different things."
Back at Starkville High, Noxubee County will start its trek toward a repeat as MHSAA Class 4A State championship against Greenwood at 7:30 p.m.
Greenwood typically is one of the contenders in Class 4A and should serve as a good measuring stick for Tyrone Shorter's club.
"Everybody wants to get that first taste," Shorter said. "This is always a good chance to get some younger players into action for the first time. You want to see how they respond."
In each game, teams are expected to play a regulation half with varsity players and an abbreviated time period (either a quarter or a set amount of time) with junior varsity players.
Starkville will face Louisville for the second-straight preseason. The last regular-season game was in 2010.
The Wildcats begin their final season under M.C. Miller. Randal Montgomery, who was head coach at Columbus last season, will assist Miller this year before taking over the program after the season.
"It's a great way to start the season," Jones said. "You want to be challenged. That is how you learn about your team."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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