Volunteers use shutout to improve to 2-0


Starkville Academy wide receiver Zak Kelly left tries to avoid French Camp Academy’s Zach Gilmer in the first quarter.

Starkville Academy wide receiver Zak Kelly left tries to avoid French Camp Academy’s Zach Gilmer in the first quarter. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch


By Amber Dodd, Special to The Dispatch



STARKVILLE -- The reigning Mississippi Association of Independent School (MAIS) AAA State champion Starkville Academy football team returned to J.E. Logan Field on Friday night with more than another title. 


Starkville Academy continued its winning ways of 2017 with a 25-0 victory against French Camp Academy in the home opener for 2018.  


"The formula from last year hasn't changed." Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson said. "We have to trust in what we're doing and be patient and keep working. Our mentality is to trust the process and be patient." 


Nicholson's formula showed in an obedient defense and in a versatile offense that helped the Volunteers (2-0) find balance until they started to roll in the second quarter. 


Patience was a key for senior running back Taylor Arnold, who had 17 carries for 123 yards before halftime but didn't score. Campbell Spivey blocked a punt that Ben Guest recovered and scored on in the second quarter to give Starkville Academy a 7-0 lead. 


Senior quarterback Garrett Lewis stood on the sideline with Nicholson, discussing issues he had throwing the ball and creating good looks for his receivers. He didn't get a chance to score before throwing an interception in the first quarter. Nicholson reminded Lewis patience is a team motto. 


"You're going to get there," Nicholson told Lewis. "You'll be good." 


Patience seems to be a running theme of the offense. Lewis found his rhythm in the second half and finished with 97 passing yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Arnold rushed for 144 yards and a touchdown. The defense continued its smothering stance, forcing a fumble, a safety, and recovering two punts.  


Lewis said Nicholson has worked with him on routes to establish a two-way communication that will be the foundation that strengthens team chemistry. 


"We've been like that since eighth grade," Lewis said of his relationship with Nicholson. "Once I moved up to high school, it got better. We know what we're thinking and we know what he wants to run and what I want to run." 


Nicholson will keep working to build those bonds in preparation for the team's game next week against Indianola Academy. Last season, Starkville Academy beat Indianola Academy 21-14 in overtime to win the state title and cap a 13-win season. The winning streak from the 2017 campaign is still going thanks to a dominant defense and the efforts on offense of Lewis and Arnold. 


"We have to continue to get better each and every week," Nicholson said. "It's not going to be easy, and we know nothing last year or this week will help us moving forward."  




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