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By JOEL COLEMAN
Seemingly everything has gone right for the Starkville Academy football team so far this year.
The Volunteers have already claimed a division championship and a first-round home game in the playoffs, all done with one game to spare.
That one game takes place tonight at 7 p.m. in Hattiesburg as SA tunes up for the postseason against Presbyterian Christian School.
It's a matchup between two of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools' most successful programs this season, but Vols head coach Jeff Terrill admits it comes under rather unique circumstances.
"It's certainly an awkward week, probably for both teams," said Terrill. "Everybody's smart enough to realize it will not change the playoffs, so we've just got a real challenge...to go down there and be ready and continue to get better."
If premier competition helps teams improve, both squads indeed have the opportunity to better themselves.
Starkville Academy comes into the game boasting an overall record of 9-1 with a 4-1 mark in conference play.
Presbyterian Christian meanwhile sits at 7-3 overall and 4-1 in the division.
Two of PCS's losses came at the hands of perennial MAIS powers Jackson Academy and Jackson Prep, while the other was courtesy of undefeated Simpson Academy.
That's a large reason why Terrill believes his Vols are going up against one of Mississippi's elite units.
"(PCS) is a Division I-AAA playoff team and probably right now, we're playing either the second or third best team in the state," said Terrill. "They've got great size and they are a very physical team, one that through the season has really gotten better. They are a real contender to threaten for a championship.
"They're probably the biggest team we've played and they're very physical. They just try to out-physical you. They're a big run-the-ball and play-physical-defense football team."
Offensively, PCS relies heavily on running backs Blake Graves and Lee Sigrest, who have rushed for approximately 800 yards each this season according to Bobcats head coach Joey Hawkins.
SA counters with its triple-option attack that is centered around quarterback Drew Pellum and fullback Ryan Mann, who rushed past the 1,000-yard mark for the season in a win last week over East Rankin.
Even with the success SA has had offensively this year, Terrill says the PCS defense provides quite the challenge.
"They run to the ball well," said Terrill. "Of course with the style of offense we run, it'll be tough to move the ball against them."
In fact, Terrill believes all aspects of tonight's game will prove to be quite the test for SA. Knowing that, and understanding the playoffs start in just seven days, Terrill is hoping for a good game, and good health, when the Vols exit Hattiesburg.
"It's kind of strange to be 9-1 the last game of the season and be an underdog, but that's certainly what we are," said Terrill. "We've just got to hope that we'll go down there, we'll continue to play well, we won't get anybody hurt and we'll just kind of let the game unfold itself."