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Senior Eric Rogers is being rewarded for his years of football service to the Starkville Yellowjackets.
Through three years with SHS, Rogers did not see a great deal of success.
That all changed this season for Rogers and the Jackets.
The offensive and defensive lineman has helped Starkville to a 12-2 record and plays for the Class 5A state championship Saturday night against Picayune. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"This is a year I will never forget and will be with me for the rest of my life," Rogers said. "I will never forget these coaches, players and team."
The Jackets saw records of 3-8, 4-8 and 5-6 in the three seasons prior to this, but it didn't keep Rogers from growing as a player and person.
"We struggled in past years, but I just had to keep myself going," Rogers said. "When Coach (Jamie) Mitchell came, he said he appreciated me for sticking around when football wasn't good in Starkville.
"I don't think I ever told (Mitchell) thank you for everything he's done for me and for this team."
Mitchell said Rogers has been a stable force on the line the last two seasons.
Rogers has developed into one of the leaders for Starkville.
"He's a great player and one of the few seniors we've got," Mitchell said. "We're fortunate to have him and he'll be vastly missed.
"He's the silent kind and never says two words. You wouldn't know he's there unless you looked up and saw his number. He's such a pleasure and comes from a great family. We're thankful to see this happening in his senior year."
After the Jackets lost linebackers David Fair and J.B. Barriare to season-ending injuries, Rogers knew he had to be one of the players to step up on defense.
He was glad to see other linebackers like Taylor Johnston and Dennis Ware fill the shoes of Fair and Barriare at the position.
"We lost two linebackers, but we had two great ones to step up," Rogers said. "Our defense has a lot of great players and we're good at stopping the run."
Starkville defensive coordinator Brooks Oakley calls Rogers "a very talented and explosive guy" and made his unit much better.
Rogers' commitment to the team was made evident when he played every snap of the playoff game against West Point on offense and defense.
"He played wherever we needed him to," Oakley said. "He's played a little defensive end for us. He's one of those guys who's going to give it everything he's got."
Rogers has 47 total tackles for the Jackets and leads the team with 19 tackles for loss. He is tied for the team-high in sacks with six and has forced two fumbles and recovered two fumbles.
The thought of playing for a state title puts a smile on Rogers' face, especially when it didn't look like it was going to happen before his SHS career was over.
"There are a lot of people congratulating us and saying they knew we could do it," Rogers said. "We had some doubters, but they are back on the band-wagon with us now."