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By DANNY P. SMITH
The injury bug has bitten the Starkville High School linebacker position in what football coach Jamie Mitchell called "a tragic" situation.
First, the Yellow Jackets lost junior linebacker David Fair during the third quarter of the Tupelo game to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and is out for the rest of the season, then senior J.B. Barriare, the other starting linebacker, went down in practice Tuesday with a broken ankle.
As Starkville looks to Friday night's rivalry game at West Point (7:30 p.m.), Mitchell said things have been made much more tougher with the losses of the team's two top tacklers in Fair and Barriare.
"We're going into this game and the rest of the year without our two starting inside linebackers," Mitchell said. "That's huge.
"We're struggling to find a way to piece some things together. You lose David, then you lose J.B."
Fair was the leading tackler after three games for the Jackets (2-1) with 28 total. He also had two tackles for loss and one forced fumble.
"He's the heart and soul of that defense," Mitchell said.
Barriare was right behind Fair in the tackle department with nine total and he also had a forced fumble.
The only thing Mitchell said SHS must do in moving forward is findng other players to contribute.
"We're struggling right now to get the pieces glued back together and find some guys to step up," Mitchell said. "There's a great quote, 'the next man up,' and we've just got to find out who that next man is.
"Taylor Johnston (sophomore linebacker) is going to have some big shoes to fill. He's going to have some opportunities to play and there are going to have to be some other guys as well. We'll try to battle through it and find some other guys who can make plays."
There are also some concerns that sophomore center Ryan Minor may not be able to play against the Green Wave due to a swollen hand.
"We're worried about (Minor) because he's been a part of that offensive line," Mitchell said.