By JOEL COLEMAN
At this juncture, it's anyone's guess how the 2011 high school football season will play out.
Yet if the Starkville Yellowjackets find themselves in the midst of a successful campaign come this fall, then the final day of June may well be looked at as one of the team's major turning points.
Starkville, competing against 15 other schools from around the state, came out on top Thursday in the Mel Kiper Jr. Mississippi State 7-on-7 Championship Tournament hosted at Brandon.
The Jackets battled through round-robin, pool play Thursday morning before ultimately emerging victorious in a single elimination tournament that afternoon, ousting Port Gibson in the semifinals and beating Jim Hill for the event's championship.
"This was a big, big win for us without a doubt," said SHS head coach Jamie Mitchell. "We've had a busy summer, playing in our own 7-on-7 league every Monday night in June, going to the University of Alabama's 7-on-7 camp and the East Mississippi (Community College) camp, and this was our last camp to go to. Over the course of all that, we've just kind of gotten better and better and better all summer and then (Thursday), it just seemed to all click for us and everything fell into place."
Mitchell, who will soon begin his second season at the helm in Starkville, took 18 members of his team to Thursday's event, only two of which were seniors.
Such is the lot Mitchell and the Jackets have been given for the upcoming season after Starkville lost 25 members of its 2010 squad to graduation.
Yet the youthful Jackets showed their promise in Brandon, even catching Mitchell a bit off guard.
"We've played well in spurts this summer, but to say that we went down there and expected to win the whole thing would have been a stretch," said Mitchell. "It just happened for us yesterday. We played well and we had a lot of kids that made a lot of different plays for us and we just couldn't be happier."
With all of their camps now complete, the Jackets will now turn their focus to weight training and conditioning over the month of July before hitting the practice field in August.
Mitchell now hopes the success his club found in the month of June will be just the spark needed for SHS to take the next step in its progression.
"We couldn't be prouder of what we've done this summer and (Thursday) just kind of turned out to be that icing on top of the cake," said Mitchell. "It's something we certainly had a great time doing and the kids got to experience a big-time win."