Competitive: State of Starkville Academy athletics

Starkville Academy football coach Chase Nicholson, right, hugs Ben Guest.

Staff Writer

Much goes into making a successful athletic departments across the landscape of each sport.

Among those things are the athletes that play the games, of course, but it also takes coaching staffs pulling in the same direction for a common goal. For Starkville Academy, that goal is to win a state championship in each sport and the understanding is there for the entire student body and their coaches.

Chase Nicholson could be considered the most competitive of the entire bunch and his pride in Starkville Academy swells. It’s a big reason why Nicholson is again the athletics director of the program, which is a post that he said he’s been working together with longtime coach Tony Stanford in anyway. The two switched roles again this year with Nicholson stating he will be more of the voice of the athletics department and still rely heavily on Stanford to make decisions.

It’s nothing new for Nicholson, who has been with the Volunteers for a decade and is entering his fourth season as head coach. What is new is the surge of competitiveness that has now reached every sport and he likes the direction things are heading.

“We’re in a great place and I think there’s been a lot of great things going on here,” Nicholson said. “A couple of year ago, three or four of us were competitive and would have been in the playoffs, but we’re trying to push to another level. That’s what you’ve seen everybody do.”

State championships are nothing new for Starkville Academy. It has won several basketball titles and returned to prominence last season with a football championship, but the Vols have also been successful in the sports that are often forgotten.

The soccer program at SA is one of the most consistent in the state. The boys and girls teams have competed for the state title in each of the last two seasons with the girls squad winning it all two years ago. Though there has been a revolving door of coaches in recent years, Nicholson is hoping that they’re finding solid footing in the hiring of Matthew Tremblay this year.

The same goes for baseball coach Thomas Berkery, who will also be taking over a softball program that was dead for a season but is returning to life.

“In the great football season we had, you forget that the soccer girls played for a state championship and they were the first to play for it in early October,” Nicholson said. “You have the softball team being gone for a year and they come back and get their feet back under them and now with the hire of coach Berkery, you’re seeing them move in the direction we want them to move.”

Speaking of Berkery, the most excitement stems from what he has been called to do for the baseball team. Berkery replaces Brooks Roberts, who led the Vols to back-to-back playoff appearances and Berkery inherits a good situation. Nicholson is looking for the program to be elevated even higher now as the former Mississippi State standout added former Major League Baseball All-Star Roy Oswalt to his staff as pitching coach.
In other words, Starkville Academy isn’t messing around.

“What we’re refusing to let happen is, we’re not going to allow ourselves to be complacent,” Nicholson said. “That’s why we hired coach Berkery to coach baseball and softball because we want to move to the next level.”
While there were no major changes on the basketball court, Nicholson also added that Bruce Allsup will have stability around him.

The Vols pushed assistant Jordan Graham to junior high girls head coach and high school girls assistant coach and added Christian Collegiate Assistant Athletics Director Tyler Smith to the junior high boys head coaching post and high school boys assistant.

“We’re asking (Allsup) to win state championships in two different sports and in two different gender sports," Nicholson said. "That’s tough. We’re trying to alleviate things around him and under him to take that next step. Those assistants can focus on developing the boys and the girls and helping him.”

As for the gridiron, Nicholson is just looking to sustain the success his team is having.

Nicholson arrived at Starkville Academy as an assistant and the team suffered through an 0-10 season in year one. He found some solid ground under coach Jeff Terrill and has since posted three-straight playoff berths in as many tries with an overall record of 29-7, two District 2-AAA championships and a state title last season.

What's next? Defend it.

“The state championship is the pinnacle, but we’re not done,” Nicholson said. “We’re trying to go back and win it again and we’re going to continue to push. It’s not just on Friday nights. It’s everything you do in practice. We want the community to know that we’re not a one-hit wonder.”