By DANNY P. SMITH
Anytime a high school team or individual plays for a state championship in any sport, it's a big deal.
The accomplishment of reaching that level deserves as much of the limelight as can possibly be given.
When the Starkville Academy Volunteers defeated Clarksdale-Lee Academy 28-0 last week to punch their ticket to the Class AAA-Division II State championship, it warranted the utmost attention.
Starkville Academy may have lost a 20-0 decision to Washington School at Robinson-Hale Stadium in Clinton on Friday afternoon, but this was a season to be celebrated.
Even though the Vols did not complete the task by capturing a state title trophy, that should not diminish what they were able to achieve this season.
Starkville Academy's program has come so far in just two year's time.
In 2009, the Vols did not win a single game, then improved to 3-8 in Jeff Terrill's first season as coach and finished 10-3 this season with an appearance in the state title game to its credit.
"This program went 0-11 two years ago and were out of games at halftime," Terrill said. "I don't think I've seen anything like the Cinderella story and the change that these seniors and this football team has done. Even standing here after a loss today, I could not be more proud of them."
There was a time two years ago that the Vols weren't sure success would ever come.
"No way," SA senior offensive and defensive lineman Angus Catchot said. "I never thought I would come to this field and play in this game."
Catchot and the Vols did it with sheer effort and determination.
After Starkville Academy won five-straight games to open the season, it suffered a tough 23-0 loss at Jackson Prep.
The Vols could have gone in the tank after such a disappointing outing, but they bounced back to four more games to claim the division crown and hosted a first-round playoff game.
Starkville Academy athletic director Glenn Schmidt, who was at the school the last time it won a state championship in 2005, said she could not be more proud of the way the athletes and coaches have performed this season.
"These young men have come so far from two years ago, but their character, heart and senior leadership combined with some outstanding coaches. Starkville Academy is better because of this season and better because of these young men. We've set a goal now and we're ready."
Now that the Vols have reached this level once again, it's hard to imagine seeing them go backward in the future under Terrill's watch.
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.