By DANNY P. SMITH
It's pretty cut and dry for the Starkville Yellowjackets.
All the Jackets have to do is win against the Neshoba Central Rockets tonight and they are the champions of Class 5A, Region 2, District 6.
Starkville football coach Jamie Mitchell is excited about having a division title within reach in Philadelphia. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
"You couldn't draw up a better scenario and should be a good night for it," Mitchell said. "We are holding our own cards and all we have to do is win. We control our own destiny and don't need any help. We've just got to play better than they do (tonight). That's the bottom line."
The Jackets have records of 8-2 overall and 6-0 in the region, while the Rockets enter the game at 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the region.
With the way Neshoba Central has played this season under former SHS coach Chuck Friend leading the way, Mitchell knows the competition will be strong.
"They lost two of the first three then went on a winning streak and lost in overtime at Ridgeland," Mitchell said. "They are on a stretch run where they are playing really good football. I'm sure they feel very confident playing at home and will be a big advantage for them.
"There are going to be two good football teams playing with a whole lot on the line. There's tons of playoff implications coming from this game so if you can't get up for this one, you don't need to get on the bus."
After splitting their four non-division games to begin the season, the Jackets have won all six region games to this point. The most impressive of those victories was a come-from-behind 26-23 decision at Ridgeland.
Mitchell has been amazed with the balance of his squad on offense.
After 10 games, Starkville has rushed for 1,648 yards and passed for 1,639 yards. That's a difference of 9 yards. The averages are 164.8 yards rushing per game and 163.9 yards passing per outing.
Quarterback Gabe Myles is closing in on 1,500 yards passing and 500 yards rushing for the Jackets.
Myles has completed 82-of-165 pass attempts for 1,488 yards and 14 touchdowns. He leads SHS with 490 yards on the ground.
The Jackets have been penalized 87 times for 589 yards this season, an average of 8.7 flags for 58.9 yards per game. Starkville has also turned the ball over 25 times in 10 games this season.
"Without a doubt, our biggest concern is penalties and turnovers," Mitchell said. "We've just been infested with them for some reason. It's discouraging to be this late in the season and doing the things we're doing.
"We're fortunate to be able to overcome those in some games with lesser opponents, but you are not going to do that with better people. I know that and I think (the players) know that. We're working hard to try and eliminate some of those things. It's just been odd because some of the things happening on Friday nights, we're not seeing Monday through Thursday. It's hard to try and fix something you're not seeing in practice, but we are seeing them on Friday nights."
On the injury front, Mitchell hopes to have defensive back Ladorious Pittman back from a leg injury to contribute. Pittman has 29 tackles and two fumble recoveries this season.
The biggest concern is not having senior lineman Cory Cannon available for the key encounter.
Cannon suffered a severe hamstring pull in the 35-21 win against Callaway last Friday. He has 23 total tackles, four tackles for loss and one fumble recovery.
"He is a very good player and one of our better players," Mitchell said. "He's iffy at best and one of the only seniors we have playing and playing well.
"We're hopeful, but if he can't go, we've got other guys all year long that have been able to step up and we hope that can continue."