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Wave keeps coming: Starkville needing more stiff defense against West Point

September 6, 2012

Starkville quarterback Gabe Myles (5) tries to break the tackle of West Point's Ed Brown (56) during last year's playoff meeting. There is a chance that Myles has recovered enough from his sprained ankle to play tonight for the Jackets against the Green Wave. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

The Starkville Yellowjackets need to bring another big container to the football field this week.

After bottling up the Tupelo Golden Wave 28-0, the Jackets have visions of doing the same thing defensively tonight against a rival of a different color as the West Point Green Wave invade Starkville. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

SHS football coach Jamie Mitchell watched as his defense held Tupelo to minus 4 yards rushing and 59 total yards last week and said it's important for the unit to keep up the good play against West Point.

"They have to do that with what we're going through on offense right now," Mitchell said. "We've got to play that way on defense. It was just a good solid defensive effort (against Tupelo). We played great up front, played great in the secondary and really put them in some bad situations."

Several Jackets have been active on defense, but none more than linebacker Taylor Johnston, who has 25 tackles to lead the team. Devonte Davis has added 22 tackles.

Johnston and Davis have to be on top of their games once again against the one-two punch of Aeries Williams and Tez Lane of the Green Wave.

The two players combined for 284 yards rushing for West Point in a 26-19 victory over Columbus last week. Williams had 238 all-purpose yards by himself.

"That's two of the best skilled players we'll see all year long," Mitchell said. "Those two guys make it happen for them and they are seasoned players. They moved Lane to quarterback and Williams is a really good tailback. Without question, we'll have our hands full. We'll check them up and get them in some punt situations."

Starkville has had its problem with injuries so far this season, but Mitchell said winning against Tupelo was the medicine his team needed.

"It helps everything," Mitchell said. "You are starting to see some of these guys getting some chances and (believing they) can get it done too. I think it is a compliment to some of our depth. We are certainly going to have to count on several of those guys as we continue on."

There is a possibility that senior quarterback Gabe Myles, a Starkville Daily News Top 10 player on offense, will return in some capacity for the Jackets.

Although his ankle may not be 100 percent, Mitchell said Myles has practiced this week and could play against the Green Wave.

The availability of sophomore signal caller Caleb Wilson is in question because of soreness in his throwing arm. Wilson has completed 13-of-26 pass attempts for 231 yards and three touchdowns in two games.

"Caleb has missed (Monday and Tuesday) of practice," Mitchell said. "(He has) some elbow soreness from the throwing because he's doing more than what he's used to. Whoever can stand up is who will play. If Gabe continues (to practice), both will play Friday night."

Starkville will be without athlete Ladorrious Pittman, who is scheduled for season-ending surgery, while Darius Grayer will continue to be limited with a cast on his thumb.

"We got the cast a little smaller which helped," Mitchell said. "He was a big dose of help (against Tupelo) and if we can get that cast off and he will get it off (Sept. 12), he will have a bigger part. He fumbled on a speed sweep and that cast has a lot to do with that. I thought he was a big part of the difference of Friday night."

Defensively, linebacker David Fair has been battling through a knee injury.

The courage that Fair continues to show by playing through the pain impresses Mitchell.

"We have only one player on this team that would even want to try it, but he's going to give it a go," Mitchell said of Fair's desire. "We are cautiously optimistic because he deals with so much with that knee. At the same time, he's as gritty as they come. We'll see how he can do."
There's no doubt in the mind of West Point coach Chris Chambless that Mitchell and his staff will come up with a plan.

"They're getting hit by the injury bug, but you can throw all of that out the window in a Starkville-West Point game," Chambless said. "You are going to see two hard-nosed football teams getting after it. I wouldn't expect anything less and wouldn't want anything less.

"It's going to be fun for both sides. There are going to be some plays made by both teams and the team that makes the most plays is going to win."

Mitchell has coached in four battles between the Jackets and Green Wave since becoming the SHS coach. The two teams played twice last year and Starkville knocked West Point out of the Class 5A playoffs.

"Starkville-West Point is as good a rivalry as you'll find in the state," Mitchell said. "It has been going on for a long time. Hopefully, we can make it a great football game and I know coach Chambless and his guys will be ready.

"I know this much, our guys will be ready to play and eager to get back out there to see how we can do."

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