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By DANNY P. SMITH
It was a disappointing end of the season for the Starkville Yellowjackets and coach Jamie Mitchell.It was the goal for the Starkville High School Yellowjackets in Jamie Mitchell's first year as football coach to make the playoffs.
The Jackets almost got there.
When Starkville lost a 34-32 decision to Columbus last Friday, it brought an end to a season prematurely without the postseason appearance which was desired.
Mitchell said the season was defined by "almosts" and "what ifs."
The Jackets lost the last four games to end the season with records of 5-6 overall and 3-4 in Class 6A, Region 1.
Among the losses were several heartbreakers and the only game Starkville was not competitive in was against South Panola 47-13.
"You feel you are right there at it," Mitchell said. "If you look at it, people may not see the progress that was made, but what I feel like we've done is learned how to be in ballgames. I've told the team many times that you've got to learn to be in games before you can win games.
"We were fiercely competitive and were in every game we played except one. Now we've got to go back and figure out how to win those."
The task of moving forward won't be immediately easy as Mitchell loses 24 senior Jackets.
Rebuilding isn't a term Mitchell necessarily wants to use, but said that's exactly the situation SHS finds itself in next year.
"What we'd love to have done is played some younger kids this year and have them coming back, but in high school, you've got to take what you have," Mitchell said. "When I got here, we had a very good group of seniors and a really good group of sophomores, but not a whole lot of juniors."
Mitchell believes there's a good group of freshmen coming up and is ready to get those seasoned as sophomores. Next year's juniors will have to play vital roles with the Jackets.
"We know we're going to be a young football team and play a lot of sophomores and juniors," Mitchell said. "We do feel like after next year, we're going to be back in a good position to hopefully start rolling some pretty good players through here on a yearly basis."
Starkville played six junior varsity games during the course of the season and Mitchell was glad to get players some experience that way.
"That helped tremendously," Mitchell said. "It gave those guys a chance to play and gives us a chance to evaluate. It helps us identify which direction we need to go and who can play where."
Even though the season is over for the Jackets as a whole, two members of the squad get to suit up for one more game each in December.
Quarterback Jaquez Johnson plays at the Mississippi-Alabama Game on Dec. 11 and D.J. Jordan participates in the Benard Blackwell Game on Dec. 18.
"We're so proud of both of those guys that have an opportunity to go represent us and our school," Mitchell said. "We look forward to seeing both of those guys participate. I coached in both of those (games) and they are in for the time of their life. It's a great experience for players and coaches."
As far as the returning players for SHS, they will hit the weight room beginning Monday in preparation for next season.
"Spring practice will be here before you know it," Mitchell said. "There won't be any grass growing beneath our feet."