Jackets prepared for a new season
It's almost like the Starkville High School Yellowjackets and coach Jamie Mitchell are starting over.
After breaking even over the first four games of the season against non-division competition, the Jackets had an open date.
The Starkville coaching staff used the week without a game to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the squad. The focus was on the things the Jackets did well, in particularly on offense with the passing game, and sharpen those things.
Mitchell called the week "productive," but also acknowledged that time will tell exactly how much progress was made.
Starkville makes the trip to the Southaven area tonight to open Class 6A, Region 1, Division 2 play against the DeSoto Central Jaguars. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
With it being DeSoto Central's Homecoming and the beginning of the division schedule, Mitchell believes it should serve as a little extra motivation for the Jaguars.
"You can say what you want, but we're all 0-0 when it comes down to what really matters," Mitchell said. "I'm trying to get our kids to understand that every division win, no matter who it's against, counts the exact same amount. It's imperative for us to go up there and play well. Hopefully, we can find a way to start 1-0 in the division. That's our whole goal."
While Mitchell was on the coaching staff at Olive Branch for four years, he became familiar with the DeSoto Central program.
The Jaguars have had a difficult time winning consistently and have an 0-4 to start this season, but Mitchell sees hope for coach Matt Wallace's squad.
"They've had some decent talent there from time to time," Mitchell said. "This is one of those teams that continues to improve."
While observing this week's opponent on film, Mitchell noticed things that DeSoto Central does well.
"Offensively, it looks like they want to stay in the I and run the football, but they have shown tendacies to get into the spread and throw it," Mitchell said. "They've had a week off too so you always worry about what's up their sleeve. You don't know until you get there and see what's going to happen.
"They are not very complex, but will blitz you on defense. One thing for sure is they are going to come after the quarterback. They really like to pressure you defensively."
Mitchell said it helps to have a mobile quarterback like senior Jaquez Johnson, who has produced 555 yards of total offense this season. He has 270 yards passing and 285 yards rushing.
"One of the things we've done is protect him this year," Mitchell said. "He's had very good pass protection for the most part, but it certainly helps when you have a mobile guy who can move when you do miss one."
The Jackets (2-2) entered their open date after beating rival West Point 21-20.
After not being able to make the plays to pull off wins against Noxubee County and Meridian, Mitchell was happy to see Starkville fine a way to beat the Green Wave in a similar situation.
"You see half a dozen plays in the second (against West Point) that if we don't make those, we don't win the game," Mitchell said. "I was impressed with our refusal to quit in the second half and the way our guys continued to fight."
Mitchell said it's a plus to be able to get senior defensive end/linebacker Priston Henderson back from an injury and is expected to play. Receiver/defensive back Gabe Myles, running back Preston Baker and wide receiver Kentrell Spencer remain out with their injuries.