By DANNY P. SMITH
The juniors believe they are laying a solid foundation for the Starkville High School football team.
Gabe Myles, Stanley Higgins, Preston Baker, Devin Mitchell and Jimmy Saulsberry are the juniors who have had a part in 20 of 22 touchdowns this season for the Yellowjackets.
Myles says it's up to the juniors to be leaders because there's not a strong senior presence for SHS.
"We were looking up to the seniors when we were sophomores," Myles said. "Now there aren't that many seniors so I feel like we're trying to step in and fill that void. It's helping us develop a whole lot quicker."
In last Friday's 26-23, come-from-behind victory against Ridgeland, Higgins scored the deciding touchdown for Starkville with a 2-yard run and also caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Myles. Devin Mitchell added a 24-yard run for a score.
It's the change of those Jackets over the last few games that has excited football coach Jamie Mitchell.
"They are growing every week and are no longer young juniors who have no experience," Mitchell said. "They are seasoned players now. We hold them to a little higher accountability now. As they've matured, our expectations have gone up and they've certainly done a good job of answering the bell for us."
Those players will be called upon once again when Starkville hosts Canton in the next challenge in Class 5A, Region 2, District 6. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Yellowjacket Stadium.
Starkville has enjoyed a successful season to this point with records of 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the region.
Even though Mitchell is proud of those marks, it's the way the Jackets have handled the situation that makes him most proud.
"I think we are well-grounded and focused," Mitchell said. "I like where our football team is. I think the guys understand the vision we've been trying to get them to see. Who knows where we are going to end up? Nobody knows that, but I know the guys have a clear vision of what we're trying to achieve."
Starkville's offense went over the 1,000-yard passing mark as a team in the last game, while Myles passed for 884 yards and eight touchdowns. Myles adds 333 yards on the ground for 1,217 yards of total offense.
Baker and Devin Mitchell have 17 catches each with Mitchell gaining 382 yards and Baker getting 306 yards.
Defensively, Dennis Ware leads the Jackets with 46 total tackles, while Johnny Smith adds 31 total tackles and a pair of interceptions.
Canton will showcase some playmakers of its own so Coach Mitchell wants his squad to just focus on taking care of its business.
"Every week is a challenge when you coach high school football," Mitchell said. "You never really know what you are going to get. We feel like we've got to contain those guys and continue to improve offensively for us. That's our main goal.
"It's really not about who we're going to play. Canton is going to come and we're going to get their best shot. At the end of the day, it boils down to Starkville and what we're able to do. I feel like we've had a great week of practice again and I think our guys will be ready to play."
One SHS player who may be limited is defensive back Ladorious Pittman, who has a possible stress fracture or shin splits.