By DANNY P. SMITH
One city – two high school division champions.
By the end of the week, Starkville could have one prep team with a state championship and another possibly on the way to one.
The Starkville Academy Volunteers are set to take on Washington School in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA-Division II State Championship Friday afternoon. The game kicks off at 2 p.m. at Robinson-Hale Stadium on the campus of Mississippi College in Clinton.
Just a few hours later back in Starkville, the SHS Yellowjackets begin their playoff quest against Hernando in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. That game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
It has been mentioned in this space before and deserves repeating that coaches Jeff Terrill at Starkville Academy and Jamie Mitchell at Starkville High have done outstanding jobs this season in getting their programs to where they are today.
The Vols and Jackets only have two losses each on the way to division titles.
For Starkville, both of its losses came in non-region games to Noxubee County 33-21 and West Point 33-12. The Green Wave, also a Class 5A school but in a different region, could be a playoff opponent for the Jackets if both can make it past the first round.
SHS went through its Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 schedule undefeated with the closest game being a 26-23 come-from-behind victory at Ridgeland. Being able to secure that decision appeared to give the Jackets the momentum needed to propel them to the region crown.
Hernando, the fourth-seeded team out of Class 5A, Region 1, District 2, has a 5-6 overall record so Starkville should not have any problem advancing if it plays solid football.
As for Starkville Academy, it has come from being 0-11 in 2009 and 3-8 in 2010 to a record of 10-2 overall and playing for a state championship this season.
Terrill said the progress is a testament to an outstanding group of young men that he's very proud of, but someone had to point the Vols in the right direction. That credit goes to Terrill and his coaching staff.
It wasn't a perfect season for Starkville Academy as there were a couple of hiccups along the way with losses to Jackson Prep 23-0 and Presbyterian Christian 21-3. Both times the Vols came up short, they were able to bounce back and get back to winning. SA won five games in a row to start the season, then claimed four-straight decisions after the Prep loss and defeated Clarksdale-Lee 28-0 following the tough trip to Presbyterian Christian to reach the state championship game.
This is the first time the Vols have played for a state title since 2005 when it beat Heritage Academy.
Washington will be a tough opponent Friday afternoon, but SA has shown on more than one occasion this season that it can hold its own against decent competition.
Regardless of what happens from this point on, the Vols and the Jackets have given this city many reasons to be proud of its football teams.
Somehow everything just seems to feel right again in Starkville.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.