Cinderella teams SA, Lee meet in playoffs
SA football coach Jeff Terrill's team hosts playoff game tonight. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
By JOEL COLEMAN
There's no need to adjust your eyes tonight at J.E. Logan Field.
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As the Class AAA-II playoffs get underway, Lee Academy and Starkville Academy are indeed squaring off in the postseason.
It's a sight very few, if any, could have predicted when this season began, given that the two schools combined to win just five total games all of last season.
"It's very fair to say that, coming out of last year, (Lee Academy) is the Cinderella team out of the North and we're the Cinderella team out of the South," said Starkville Academy head coach Jeff Terrill. "I don't think either school was predicted to be a playoff team, so we've both got similar stories and it's really unique."
Lee Academy's rise from the ashes began this past offseason.
After the Colts went just 2-9 in 2010, Lee Academy handed its head coaching duties back over to Ricky Weiss, a former coach at the school who for the last eight years has served as headmaster, a position Weiss still occupies as well.
Weiss proved to be just the man to orchestrate the Colts' turnaround, pushing them to a 5-5 season and a runner-up finish to Washington in Class AAA-II North.
The seeds for Starkville Academy's 2011 division championship season were also planted in large part due to a coaching change when Jeff Terrill took over the team prior to the 2010 season.
In 2010, Terrill guided a unit that had gone winless the season before to a 3-8 finish.
The Volunteers then tripled their win total this season, finishing the regular season at 9-2 and giving Starkville Academy it's first taste of the postseason since its state championship campaign of 2005.
While both teams' backgrounds are similar, their methods are similar as well.
Both teams run option-style offenses and similar schemes on defense, making for an intriguing matchup tonight once the game kicks off at 7 p.m.
"(On defense) Lee is like us, they run an eight-man-front scheme and the defenses look identical," said Terrill. "They fly to the ball. They're aggressive. They team-tackle.
"Offensively, they might do some different things than us with their option, but they execute awful well. They do a good job of getting outside and getting some positive yards."
Statistically, Starkville Academy's option has out-performed Lee Academy this year.
The Vols are averaging 26.7 points per game this year while the Colts have averaged over a touchdown less at 17.9 points per game.
SA has also allowed fewer points per game on average than Lee Academy this season with the Vols surrendering 11.5 per contest compared to the Colts' average of 23.1.
In getting to their current positions, Starkville Academy and Lee Academy have played and defeated a pair of common opponents this season in the form of Magnolia Heights and Heritage Academy.
SA topped Heritage 33-7 and beat Magnolia Heights 22-0 earlier this year while Lee beat Heritage 29-14 before topping Magnolia Heights 26-14.
Yet for all the number crunching, strategizing and analyzing, Terrill says the only thing that matters come tonight is the play on the field.
It's a situation he's proud that his Vols get to finally experience.
"We've been talking to the guys all through the season about how when you step out there for a playoff game, the air is just different," said Terrill. "There's just a special excitement. I know they are all looking forward to it and I know it will be a great night."