Game of Week part one: Starkville Academy at Heritage Academy

Heritage Academy lines up against Starkville Academy
Staff Writer

There are not very many rivalries that match the one between the Starkville Academy Volunteers and the Heritage Academy Patriots.

When a district championship figures into the equation, that puts even more emphasis on the situation.

“It’s all kind of good stuff,” Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson said. “It’s what you ask for in a football game. You can’t ask for anything more from an atmosphere. There’s no better stage, and no better setting. It’s perfect.”

The Vols will make the 25-mile trip down Highway 82 to Columbus Friday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff at C.L. Mitchell Field and the implications on the District 2-AAA race will be evident.

If Heritage Academy wins, it can claim the district title, but Starkville Academy must defeat the Patriots and get a victory over Leake Academy at home next week to become district champs.

“The loser doesn’t win district,” Nicholson said about the importance of tonight’s matchup.

Heritage Academy coach Sean Harrison said having higher stakes placed on the game makes it even more interesting.

“It’s a big rivalry, but it’s always fun when we play for more than just the rivalry,” Harrison said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

This will be the third district game for both teams. The Patriots edged Leake Academy 35-31 and beat Winston Academy 28-7, while the Vols defeated Winston Academy 36-0 and Canton Academy 38-0.
Nicholson said he challenged his offense to get off to a good start against Canton and it scored 14 points.

“We came out strong in the first quarter and had a big second half, so I’m glad we answered that challenge,” Nicholson said. “You see guys getting better and see guys making plays. That’s all you can ask for.”

Starkville Academy saw the return of Ben Owens at quarterback from a knee injury. After completing all four of his pass attempts against Canton, Owens improved his overall numbers to 44 completions in 84 attempts for 626 yards and six touchdowns, while Noah Methvin has completed 41-of-75 pass attempts for 423 yards and nine scores.

Both signal callers have benefitted from a good running game led by Taylor Arnold, who has 103 carries for 808 yards and six touchdowns.

In the receiving department, Raegan Richardson has 35 catches for 481 yards and six touchdowns.

Nicholson is anxious to see his Vols back on the field Friday night and said it’s hard to believe this is the first of the final two regular season games on the schedule.

“You are ready for the games on Friday nights, especially one this big,” Nicholson said. “In a blink, it’s gone. It’s amazing how fast 10 games can go when you are playing and you are having fun.”