By DANNY P. SMITH
Coach Jamie Mitchell believes a foundation has been laid for the future of Starkville High School football.
Last Thursday, Mitchell wanted to show the senior Yellowjackets of 2010 how much they mean to him and issued a challenge for the future.
SHS held an awards banquet at the Starkville Sportsplex multi-purpose building and Mitchell reaffirmed his commitment to getting the program back to a state championship level.
"This is where I want to be, but our program is not," Mitchell said in his closing remarks. "We have certainly worked feverishly to get our program back to where Starkville football is supposed to be. I told Dr. (Stan) Miller when I came here that we were going to win a state championship here.
"There's no question in my mind we will. These seniors have laid a foundation that greatness will be built on. I told them many times that a year or two years, three years or five years from now, they'll come back to the locker room and be greeted by saying that you were what started what's happening now."
Members of the coaching staff took time to recognize the players of each class, then singled out those for individual awards.
Among the list of winners were Jarrod Atterberry (Best Offensive Lineman), Shaquille Hill (Best Receiver), Garrett Smith (Best Offensive Back), Chris Crosby (Most Improved Offensive Player), David Fair (Best Defensive Lineman), Bryce Henderson (Best Defensive Back), Johnny Smith (Most Improved Defensive Player), Hayden Higginbotham (Special Teams Award), Jimmy Saulsberry (Offensive Scout Team Award), LeEdward Jefferson (Defensive Scout Team Award), D.J. Jordan (Best Linebacker and Most Valuable Defensive Player), and Jaquez Johnson (Most Valuable Offensive Offensive Player and Team's Most Valuable Player).
Johnson, a quarterback who played in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Classic, said being honored in such a way was a satisfying cap to his high school career.
"I worked real hard in eighth grade when I started playing Starkville football," Johnson said. "All of it came down to this night and it felt good.
"I want to thank my teammates that I've been playing with for a long time since the Starkville Raiders. Since the 6th grade, we've always been together. It felt good to spend this night with them."
Johnson is still going through the recruiting process and said the situation has "been iffy since I had my (arm) surgery."
Johnson, Jordan and Ben Newman were chosen team captains for the season.
Mitchell will never forget the contributions the seniors made to the first team he's had to coach in Starkville, but has been impressed with how the up and coming players have been working in the weight room, running, jumping and lifting to get ready for spring practice.
"They've been doing everything we can ask them to do," Mitchell said. "The future in Starkville is very bright and we are excited about what's coming and excited about the talent level that we see. We're going to play a young football team next year, but certainly I think greatness is on the horizon.
"We are Starkville and we are going to get back to the tradition of winning state championships here. That's what I'm here for and what these coaches are here for. These players are driven to win a state championship."