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As first-year Hillcrest Christian head coach Darrow Anderson tries to revive a struggling Cougars football program, he sees yet another challenge on the horizon.
After a 1-3 start to the 2011 campaign, Hillcrest welcomes Starkville Academy to Jackson on Friday for a 7 p.m. contest.
Anderson says he knows his Cougars will have their hands full with the Volunteers.
"The scary part to me is (Starkville Academy) runs the Wing-T and is putting up 40 or 50 points a game," said Anderson. "They're extremely balanced. They have a tremendous line.
"For us to be successful, we're going to have to stop (Drew Pellum) and (Ryan Mann). Both are threats. Honestly, the biggest thing we need to do to compete and have a chance to win the ball game is just play for ourselves, mistake-free football and execute the way we need to execute."
Under Anderson's leadership, the Cougars have proven this season they are capable of performing at a high level.
After suffering through a disheartening three seasons from 2008 to 2010 in which Hillcrest won just one game, the Cougars recorded a 35-19 win against Adams County Christian in the second week of this season.
In that contest, senior running back T.J. Knowles put up 357 rushing yards on 37 carries. Hillcrest will look for Knowles to have another strong performance against Starkville Academy.
"He's a heck of an athlete," said Anderson of Knowles. "He works hard and he's a difference-maker.
"We tried him at quarterback for us in the first game and we just never could quite get it going. We made a switch to a 9th grader at quarterback and gave (Knowles) a shot at running the football and he's done a tremendous job."
Knowles is one of just two senior starters for Anderson's club.
Despite Hillcrest's youth, Anderson says his club is gaining the experience necessary to move the program forward.
"We're really young, but we work daily to get better," said Anderson. "The thing we've done consistently is play hard."