By JOEL COLEMAN
Any high school football coach will tell you games are won and lost on the line of scrimmage.
So when it came time for Starkville High head coach Jamie Mitchell to hire new leaders for his offensive and defensive lines, it should have come as no surprise when he turned to a pair of guys he knew had the capabilities to get the jobs done.
Chris Walters, who spent last season as Smithville's defensive coordinator, along with Justin Moss, Aberdeen's former offensive coordinator, each were recently brought to Starkville by Mitchell.
Walters will take over the reins of the Yellowjackets' defensive line, while Moss will guide the SHS offensive line.
"In our position at Starkville, we think we should be able to go out and hire the best coaches that are out there and I feel really good about Justin and Chris both," said Mitchell. "I've known both of them for quite awhile and that's something, in this business, that is important - to know who you're getting."
The hires of Walters and Moss were necessitated when former SHS coaches Rob Morgan and Charlie Smith each left the school for positions at other schools.
Morgan departed Starkville to become the offensive coordinator at Warren Central and Smith went to Meridian to become the head baseball coach.
The vacancies left by Morgan and Smith allowed Mitchell to reunite with Moss, whose ties date back to their days at Olive Branch, where they coached together prior to Mitchell being hired as Starkville's head man in the spring of 2010.
Walters, in a coaching stint at DeSoto Central prior to his Smithville tenure, spent time as an opponent of Mitchell's Conquistadors program.
Both Walters and Moss say the relationships they were able to form with Mitchell in the past played a vital role in their decisions to come to Starkville.
"I definitely have a lot of respect for Coach Mitchell," said Walters. "I knew what he did at Olive Branch and the success he had there. I stayed in contact with him over the years and he had a spot come open. I knew I'd love to work for him because he knows what he's doing."
Moss felt the same way and says the familiarity factor should serve to make for a smooth transition.
"It ought to be pretty easy," said Moss. "We don't have a lot of time, but of course we're going to hit the ground running. I know a lot of what (Mitchell) does on offense, and while a little of it has changed, it's definitely an advantage having worked for him before."
As much as a previous bond with Mitchell serves to help Walters and Moss adjust to their new surroundings, each man also understands there is still plenty of work to do in their new posts ahead of SHS's season-opening game in Macon on August 19 against Noxubee County.
Yet both men believe they have the personnel to help Starkville succeed up front.
"I've got some really good guys with a lot of talent," said Walters. "I think we're going to be the meat of the defense. If we can do our part on the line, I think we have a good chance to hold down a lot of teams."
Moss is also optimistic and says he knows just how big a role his unit plays in the grand scheme of things.
"I played offensive line all the way through and I coached it for the first three or four years that I've coached," said Moss. "I'm excited to get back after it because that's where games are decided, in the trenches."