Vols preserve victory
Starkville Academy running back Ryan McKell (9) attempts to break a tackle in the first half Friday night. (D.A. Williams/For The Daily News)
Starkville Academy coach Jeff Terrell's message was clear to his team as it tried to keep Winston Academy's high-powered offense out of the end zone with 45 seconds left to play in Friday night's Homecoming game at J.E. Logan Field.
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"You've got to get it done. You've got to make a play," Terrill said during the game.
The Volunteers did exactly that.
After the visiting Patriots had moved the football all of the way down to the 1-yard line,
Starkville Academy came up with a goal-line stand to preserve a 31-29 victory.
The Volunteers stopped a pair of quarterback keepers by Winston Academy's Tyler Sullivan with the last one running out the clock.
"It felt good when we saw them come up short and it felt good when we heard that buzzer," Starkville Academy senior Adam Crittenden said. "We didn't know how to feel at the end of the game. We just knew we were going to give it our all every play. We weren't going to quit, no matter what."
With the win, the Vols improved their record to 1-5 and Terrill was proud of the effort and determination they showed.
"I told them that one day they'll probably be on a lot better football team and hopefully one day even win a championship, but what they did here tonight in bringing Starkville Academy back to the win column, it's something they'll never forget," Terrill said. "They'll remember it all of their lives."
Starkville Academy even had to withstand some adversity at the end.
After already stopping the Patriots once late in the fourth quarter on an interception by Ryan Mann, the Vols turned the football right back to Winston on a lost fumble.
Winston Academy drove down to the 1-yard line which Terrill believes may have cut down on some of its offensive options.
"When they do get in that part of the field, it tightens down and you are able to pack them in there because there's not much room," Terrill said. "You hope you're able to just penetrate and make a play.
"You've got to give Winston a lot of credit. They had a lot of fight and kept coming at us. They have a fine quarterback and great skilled athletes. It was just a battle between two completely different style of teams and we were able to make the play at the last."
Starkville Academy made its share of plays offensively throughout the game and ended the game with 352 yards on the ground. Ryan McKell led the way with 84 yards on eight carries, but there was enough to go around as Kyle Henson added 77 yards on 10 carries, Mann had 74 yards on two attempts and Crittenden contributed 67 yards on 14 carries.
The Volunteers took the opening kickoff and marched 73 yards on six plays, all on the ground.
Crittenden carried four times for 24 yards, including the 5-yard touchdown with 9 minutes left in the first quarter.
After the Starkville Academy defense held Winston Academy to three plays and out on its first offensive possession, the offense got points again when getting the football back.
Being backed up on the 4-yard line, the Vols got out of the hole on a 61-yard run by Henson. Seven plays and a facemask penalty by Winston Academy later, McKell scored on a 19-yard run. Starkville Academy jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the 3:53 mark of the first quarter.
The visiting Patriots cut into the Vols' lead with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Sullivan to Smith Ashley, but SA answered back immediately when Mann broke loose on a 66-yard run for a touchdown with 24 seconds left in the second quarter.
Sullivan scrambled for a 25-yard score for Winston Academy in the second quarter, but the Vols got points as well on a 39-yard field goal by Will White.
After Kali Burney was crowned Homecoming Queen in halftime ceremonies, Starkville Academy got what turned out to be a crucial touchdown on a 5-yard run by James Mapp.
With White's extra point, that pushed the lead out to 31-13 and the Vols held on despite a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Patriots.
"You can't say enough (about the heart of the players), especially with the leadership of the seniors," Terrill said. "They stayed determined, stayed persistent and didn't let up in the fourth quarter when certainly Winston got the momentum back. It was just a great tribute to them."