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By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell believes if the Yellowjackets are going to claim the Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 championship this season, it goes through Ridgeland.
If that's the case, it would help Starkville to win on the road there tonight.
The Jackets take on the Titans in their own backyard in an encounter set to begin at 7 p.m.
Starkville has records of 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the region. It has won four games at home, including both region games. Both losses for the Jackets have been away.
"That's a huge concern," Mitchell said of being on the road. "The routine with kids is the biggest thing. When you are at home, you get in such a comfortable routine. You go on the road and at most places, you are in a very tiny dressing room, you're on top of each other and can't get comfortable.
"It's the travel, but it's something that if we get to where we need to be, we're going to have to be as good on the road as we are at home."
Mitchell said it's to be expected that Ridgeland has the advantage for tonight's matchup because of a comfortable setting.
The Titans, who are also 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the region, have struggled a bit at home with losses to Mendenhall 41-28 and Clinton 39-22 at home before winning a decision against Kosciusko 50-14.
The potential of Ridgeland still concerns Mitchell. The Titans, under coach Kenny Burton, played West Point in the Class 5A North Championship last year and have won the region three of the last four years.
"They've been the big dog in this division," Mitchell said. "Kenny and I know each other really well. He's done a great job there."
Mitchell said the Jackets will have to be disciplined on defense because the Titans showcase multiple formations on offense.
"When people do that, it calls for a lot of learning in practice," Mitchell said. "We spend a lot of time on alignment and assignment which kind of slows practice down a little bit. At the same time, I think our guys know what's on the line."
Ridgeland sports a running back in Quardarius Armour that has 109 carries for 909 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and stopping him will be the primary responsibility of the Starkville defense led by the 38 total tackles of Dennis Ware.
The Titans must deal with an emerging quarterback in Gabe Myles, who seems to be improving each week in his junior season with the Jackets.
Myles has completed 45.3 percent of his passes (44-of-97) for 743 yards and seven touchdowns. He is also Starkville's leading rusher with 73 carries for 175 yards and four more scores.
Since losing a 33-12 decision at West Point, the Jackets have dominated the first two region games against Lanier 53-13 and Provine 38-7.
Mitchell hopes that his squad, which has out-gained opponents 1,607 to 1,497 in total yards this season, can handle what success it's had so far in the right way.
"A little bit of winning seems to go a long way and I hope we'll continue to stay as hungry as we've been," Mitchell said. "With a group that hasn't won much, if you win three or four games, you hope they don't get satisfied. This is by far the biggest game we've had."