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By JOEL COLEMAN
Forgive head coach Jeff Terrill and his Starkville Academy football team for not being in the mood to celebrate anything just yet.
Sure, the Volunteers clinched their first playoff spot in six years with last Friday's 7-5 win over Parklane, but both Terrill and his squad understand there's still plenty of work to be done.
"We try to measure our success just one day at the time," said Terrill. "We try to get better tomorrow than we were the day before.
"We don't look ahead (to the playoffs). And we won't look back until it's all over."
Carrying that mindset, SA's next opportunity to better itself comes tonight in a 7 p.m. game at Winston Academy.
The Volunteers (7-1) topped the Patriots (4-3) a year ago in Starkville 31-29, and SA hopes to make it two in a row over Winston when the two schools hook up again tonight in Louisville.
Terrill understands that's easier said than done however.
"Our first opinion (of Winston Academy) is, from some of their earlier losses, they're a much-improved football team," said Terrill. "They've got really great size on the offensive line. They have some good, skilled wide-outs and, of course, we all know about their quarterback (Tyler Sullivan), so they pitch and catch very well."
Sullivan, who passed for 2,965 yards and 28 touchdowns last year on top of running for 547 yards and 13 scores, is the unquestionable leader of the Patriots.
Unfortunately for Winston, Sullivan may be forced to sit out this week's game after suffering a knee injury against Simpson Academy on Sept. 30.
While Sullivan's status is up in the air, Terrill says he and his staff have had no choice but to prepare like the superb signal-caller will be in the game.
"Another kid has taken four or five snaps besides (Sullivan), so there's really no preparation you can do except get ready for him," said Terrill.
A factor in whether or not Sullivan sees the field against SA could be Winston's remaining schedule, as the Patriots still have two division games remaining after tonight.
Starkville Academy also has two conference matchups left to play after battling Winston, including a contest against East Rankin next Friday that could very well determine the Class AAA-II, District 2 champion.
Even with next week's battle looming, Terrill says, for the most part, the Vols will hold nothing back against the Patriots.
"We'll call and do what it takes to try to win the football game," said Terrill. "The only thing is there could be someone who gets some type of injury in the game who maybe, in normal circumstances, could keep playing that we might have to make the decision to pull him and not let him finish. You would be a little conservative in that manner, but that's it."
Simply put, Starkville Academy plans to attack Winston with the same effort they've taken on against each challenger this season.
It's all part of the winning demeanor that the Vols have been fostering over the course of the last two seasons.
"The guys have confidence and believe they can win," said Terrill. "That helped us in the Parklane game and against Copiah. The ends of both games the last two weeks have been in question and the games haven't been over until the last play was run. But I think we've shown composure and kept battling and found different ways to win football games."
Terrill hopes for more of the same tonight against the Patriots.
"We know we're going to get their best game and it will be another barn-burner," said Terrill.