SA punches ticket to title game with victory
Starkville Academy lineman Collin Stokes (72) celebrates seeing quarterback Ryan McKell (9) score a touchdown Friday night. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville Academy football coach Jeff Terrill had his arms spread like the letter 'v' near the end of Friday night's game against the Clarksdale-Lee Academy Colts.
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It was probably for victory, but it could have been for Volunteers. Either way, it came from a very happy man that had just coached his squad to a state championship game.
With a 28-0 victory over Lee Academy at J.E. Logan Field, Starkville Academy punched its ticket for the Class AAA-Division II State title game next Friday.
"It will take some time for me to come down and realize what's happening, but it's a testimony to an outstanding group of young men that I couldn't be prouder of," Terrill said. "I remember telling them when we got started that guys you have to give us permission to push you, lead you and guide you. If I told them right now we'd go back to work, they'd go out there and go."
The Vols improved their record to 10-2 and play Washington School at Mississippi College in Clinton at 2 p.m.
Angus Catchot, a senior offensive and defensive lineman for SA, had an injury coming into the game, but was determined to do what he could to help his team have success.
The was a question prior to the game that Catchot might have to sit because of the injury, but he said, "there was no way."
"They gave me a brace and took care of me and I tried my best, but they couldn't keep me out," Catchot said. "It feels good. We never thought it would happen, but we've come a long way and it's a great feeling to have."
The Vols ended up grinding their way to the win with 183 yards on the ground, while the defense pitched a shutout.
"That's the story of Starkville Academy and it's not going to change. The defense really set the tone and we've got a lot of respect for (Clarksdale-Lee), they are a good football team and an improving football team. I thought our defense was awful physical.
Already leading in the game 14-0, Starkville Academy had a 14-play drive which covered 67 yards, all on the ground, to end the first half. A 2-yard run by Ryan Mann gave the Vols a 21-0 cushion at half.
Mann, Colby Runnels, James Mapp and quarterback Ryan McKell all had carries on the march. McKell, who was subbing for the injured Drew Pellum, had six carries for 21 yards during the series.
"You have to mention Ryan McKell," Terrill said. "To be able to step in at quarterback in this adverse situation with one week to prepare, I thought he handled himself tremendously well."
McKell finished the game with 52 yards rushing on 12 carries and completed two passes for 41 more yards and a 14-yard touchdown to Mapp with 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Normally a wide receiver-defensive back for the Vols, McKell said being behind the center was no totally new.
"I practiced a lot of it during the spring and two-a-days just in case somebody got hurt and they did," McKell said. "We had a great week of practice and the lineman really helped and Mann for carrying the load. There were still a few little things that I had to do, but I'm just proud of the whole team for stepping up."
Starkville Academy got a break early in the game when a snap sailed over the head of the Lee Academy punter and the football was recovered by the Vols at the 5-yard line.
It only took two carries by Mann to find the end zone from that point with the second being a 3-yard touchdown run at the 9:24 mark of the first quarter.
After a fumble recovery by Kirby Cox at the Lee 18-yard line, Starkville Academy's offense was in business again. Once again it only two two rushes and McKell broke a 19-yard run for the score with 8:34 remaining in the first quarter.
"We came out focused, got those early turnovers and took advantage of them," Terrill said.
Mann was the leading rusher with 19 carries for 70 yards. The Vols had 183 yards on the ground as a team.
Jordan Bright, Stephen Robertson and Taylor Hunt led a Starkville Academy defense that held Lee Academy to just 113 total yards.
Even with a little adversity last week, Terrill was glad to see the Vols respond in a positive manner.
Â It just brought them tighter together and we can't say enough good things," Terrill said. "All of them just played hard."