Starkville's Leedward Jefferson (44) makes a hit against Ridgeland in the last home game as Taylor Johnston (12) and Kyle Jones (52) pursue the play. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Starkville Yellowjackets have played more away games than home outings to this point of this season.
That's why the Jackets want to savor each time they enter the home stadium for competition and get to do that tonight against the Yazoo City Indians. The homecoming game begins at 7 p.m.
Starkville has been on the road for games at Madison Central, Tupelo, Lanier, Provine and Canton, and have hosted Noxubee County, West Point and Ridgeland.
"We love to play here," SHS football coach Jamie Mitchell said. "Not that we mind going on the road, but home games are really nice, especially with our new facility. We're able to relax more and be comfortable."
There are many potential distractions that go along with homecoming, but Mitchell said it's important for the Jackets not to get caught up in all of that so much that they lose focus on football.
"(Homecoming) draws a big crowd and creates a lot of excitement," Mitchell said. "You have the homecoming festivities and everything that goes into that. Our part of that is to make sure we take care of that football game. That's what I've harped on with our players this week. They can do whatever they want with homecoming, but we've got a football game to play and that's what matters most."
This will be only be the second Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 game at home for SHS.
After starting the division schedule with four victories, Mitchell knows it puts the Jackets in a good position.
"Every game just gets bigger," Mitchell said. "With Callaway getting beat last week, it puts us in the driver's seat. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing, play good defense and take advantage on offense when we get opportunities."
Starkville received some tough news on Tuesday when running back Preston Baker hurt his ankle for the second time this season in practice.
Baker did not practice Wednesday, but it was Mitchell's hope to have him back for limited work on Thursday. He was unsure if Baker would be able to play tonight.
"He got rolled up on and we're real concerned about him," Mitchell said.
Backup quarterback Caleb Wilson broke his collarbone, a hairline fracture of the clavicle, and is expected to be out for about three weeks.
With a third-string signal caller who hasn't had much work at all, Mitchell said it's that much more important to keep senior starter Gabe Myles healthy.
Myles could be asked to make more plays, especially if Baker is unable to play.
"We haven't had to call on him lately," Mitchell said of Myles. "I guess it's a good thing that we haven't had to have a whole lot out of him because we've had other guys step up and make plays. The time is going to come I'm sure when his number is going to be called more as we get deeper in the season and he's ready to do that."
For the season, Myles has completed 40-of-84 pass attempts for 516 yards and four touchdowns. He has rushed 67 times for 170 yards and three more scores for the Jackets.
Myles, who learned he had made the roster for the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic this week, wants to keep producing so the Jackets can keep winning.
"Division is what counts," Myles said. "You win all of these games and you are going to win the division. We're already in the playoffs and now we've got to keep winning for placement for the playoffs."
Jaquez Horsley is the leading rusher for SHS with 471 yards on 66 carries and seven touchdowns, while Kentrell Spencer tops the receiver statistics with 11 catches for 259 yards and two scores.
Defensively, Taylor Johnston paces the attack with 56 total tackles.
The Jackets could have a difficult time swarming around the Indians, who have the potential of putting up big numbers on offense.
"Yazoo City has some playmakers and a couple of receivers who are dangerous," Mitchell said. "If we can keep them out of the end zone, it would be a huge feather in our cap. It's going to be a challenge for us, but every week is. You've got to hope that (tonight) will be another good one for the Jackets."
Officials at SHS want the public to be aware of the cannon that will be used at tonight's homecoming game against Yazoo City.
The Mississippi State ROTC has granted permission and has agreed to set up the cannon that will be fired after every time the Yellowjackets score.
Attempts will be made to cut noise to a minimum, but area residents may still be surprised to hear the boom coming from the cannon.
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