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There's one particular number that makes Starkville High School defensive coordinator Brooks Oakley uncomfortable going into the Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 schedule.
The Yellowjackets have given up 25 points per game and that's too much in Oakley's mind.
"We've given up a bunch of points which is a concern," Oakley said. "We've just got to get back to playing defense like we were toward the end of last year. If you get to where we want to get, you've got to play good defense.
"With Gabe (Myles) being back (at quarterback), our offense is going to score some points. We scored 22 points against West Point and that's enough to win, but the defense gave up over 40 and that's not going to get the job done."
Starkville, which finished its non-division schedule with a 1-3 record, had losses to Noxubee County 29-8, Madison Central 24-8 and West Point 47-22. The Jackets had a good night defensively in shutting out Tupelo 28-0.
With division play beginning with tonight's game at Jackson Lanier, Oakley said the first four games are in the past and SHS must focus on the present. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in the state's capital city.
Head coach Jamie Mitchell has emphasized to the Jackets all season about not placing too much importance on the first four games of the season and those do not determine their postseason future.
Oakley said winning division games determines whether Starkville returns to the playoffs for the second-straight season.
"We've got to sell them on everybody being 0-0," Oakley said. "Regardless of who we are playing or where we are playing, this is division play. We've talked to them all week about fixing us and not so much Lanier. Even if we were playing Ridgeland, we've got to take care of us, play like we can play and the score will take care of itself."
Several Jackets remained banged up, but running back Preston Baker is listed as questionable after suffering a severe grade three sprained ankle against West Point. Linebacker David Fair continues to play with a knee injury that keeps him from practicing.
Even with the bad knee, Fair has 22 tackles with two sacks and one fumble recovery this season.
"He was effective against West Point," Oakley said. "As long as he can go, and we know he's not going to play every snap, he will do what he can do. David at 75 percent is about as good as we're going to get.
"We're still missing some guys. We've just got to play with who we've got. It's been an issue all year, but it's the next man up and he has got to get the job done."
Myles was back into the lineup against West Point after sitting out two games with his sprained ankle. In two games, Myles has completed 12 of 31 pass attempts for 140 yards and has added 37 yards rushing on 29 carries.
The leading rusher for SHS is sophomore running back Jaquez Horsley with 172 yards on 34 attempts.
Oakley has been serving as acting head coach this week in the absence of Mitchell. Mitchell has been with his family in Pontotoc after the passing of his mother Rose.
Because of the love the Jackets have for Mitchell and his family, it has been a difficult week of preparation.
"It's hard on everybody," Oakley said. "It's hard on the kids. We told them the news (Tuesday) and they care about coach Mitchell and his family. Mrs. Rose was here for most games. They all know her and know her well.
"He hasn't been here and is obviously the leader, so that's been hard on everybody and hard on us as coaches. We just have to fill the void and get the kids as prepared as possible, just like he would."View more articles in: