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Smith column: Jackets show strides made since spring

August 14, 2010

Before getting too far into this, it's important to note that what we witnessed on Saturday at Mississippi State's Davis-Wade Stadium was just a two-quarter scrimmage.
However, the Starkville Yellowjackets looked pretty good against the Jackson Callaway Chargers in those quarters.
Starkville dominated the much bigger Callaway team 21-0 in varsity action, while the Chargers were able to hold the ball for most of the junior varsity quarter to score the only eight points.
Although the Jackets face a tremendous challenge when they open the season against Noxubee County at home Friday night, they have to take a great amount of confidence into that matchup after the showing against Callaway.
Starkville football coach Jamie Mitchell saw his team perform for the first time against another team since a disappointing outing in a spring jamboree just three months ago.
"From where we were in the spring to where we are today, there's no comparison," Mitchell said. "It's not even the same football team and it will continue to get better as they learn what to do.
"We're very pleased with what we did today. Of course that doesn't do anything for next week because Noxubee's got a great football team."
Mitchell was especially pleased with the play of his offensive line which opened some nice holes for senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson and the running backs to run through.
The blocking of center Ben Newman, guards Chris Crosby, Cory Cannon and Jawon Johnson, tackles Jarrod Atterberry and Chris Prater and tight end Martavius Foster generated enough push to get Johnson into the end zone three times.
"That's where it's got to start for us," Mitchell said of the line.
Mitchell said there's still quite a bit of competition at tailback with nobody really stepping up to claim a spot in the backfield.
There were some nifty runs by Jakarta Agnew, Jacoby Smith and Devin Mitchell, which gives the Jackets something to build upon.
It wasn't only a good day for the offense, but the defense was able to shut out a Class 5A team that has several Division I prospects across its front line. Offensive lineman Aaron Morris is highly recruiting who has Mississippi State in his top four.
Morris appeared to be in shock that his team didn't look better, but gave the Jackets some credit for that.
"Even though we have some injuries and made some mistakes, (Starkville) has a good team," Morris said. "(Their defense) flies around."
Saturday didn't count as far as win-loss record, but it can mean something as far as the mental game for the Jackets.
Mitchell has made the statement many times over the last few months that something good needs to happen early for his team.
That happened on Saturday and the players were feeling good about themselves, chanting "We are Starkville" as they left the field.
Outside of a few penalties, the Jackets didn't have many negative moments against Callaway.
"We didn't have a whole lot of adversity hit us," Mitchell said. "That's coming and it will be interesting to see how we handle that."
Even though there shouldn't be a great deal of stock placed on a two-quarter scrimmage on a Saturday afternoon in August, one day the players, coaches and fans of Starkville may look back and see where it was pretty significant.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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