SHS contributes to winning formula for EMCC football

Starkville High School representatives at East Mississippi Community College.

Staff Writer

There’s no question that the root of East Mississippi Community College’s football history has taken hold inside the Golden Triangle.

Head coach Buddy Stephens has led the Lions to all four of their national championships, but there was a winning tradition even before he arrived that relied on the talent around Scooba and EMCC.

“When I first took the job here, the thing that you knew was that our district was unbelievably great from Meridian to West Point, Starkville and Columbus,” Stephens said. “Every year, that makes up the heart of the best teams in the state. We have some of the top public and private schools in the state and our district is where we want to start every year.”

Starkville has long been a part of the winning formula for the Lions and it’s no different this season.

At least three former Starkville High products will be starting as sophomores as JaQuez Akins looks to be a starting cornerback, while Connor Reinike and Jakoby Jones return as starters at center and left tackle respectively. Freshmen defensive players De’Angelo Tabb and Jordan Thompson also look to cut their teeth this season after stellar seasons with the Yellow Jackets in 2017.

For Akins, he earned his starting spot and battled for it at safety last season playing in all 12 games with 33 tackles and a couple of forced fumbles. This year, Akins is sliding down to corner back, though he doesn’t have any problems with the transition after playing all over the field for SHS.

“It’s first nature for me,” Akins said of the move to corner. “I’ve been an athlete since high school so moving from safety to corner is no big deal.”

On the other side of the football, Reinike and Jones look to hold down their side of the things. The two Starkville standouts controlled the line of scrimmage for the Jackets for several years and made up nearly half off the line at EMCC last season.

With a year under their belt, Reinike expects big things to be in store for the offense in 2018 as most of the unit returns.

“It’s a lot better than last year because we know what’s going on,” Reinike said. “It’s not about size or anything. It’s about knowing what to do. If we work together as a unit, no one can stop us.”

As for Jones, he’s enjoyed every opportunity he’s gotten to play with his former teammate while also getting a chance to bond with other Lions.

The next level will come after this season and he’s already received offers from Louisiana-Lafayette and Florida Atlantic. He counts the whole experience as a blessing with more to come.

“I’ve made some long time friends and we have a good coaching staff that have taught me well,” Jones said of his time at EMCC. “I’m just having fun, doing the thing I love playing football. I feel like I’m more developed since playing left tackle at a high level last year.”

Game one for the Lions is August 23 when they are tested right away with Hinds Community College in their defense of a state championship. Before that game happens, there’s a good chance that the players will be back at Yellow Jacket Stadium this Friday when SHS takes on rival Noxubee County.

Akins, Reinike and Jones contributed heavily to the 2016 state championship team and the leader in the secondary believes there’s reason to believe this team will compete for that same prize.

“I’m looking forward to seeing those guys do something big,” Akins said of the Jackets. “They’ve got a lot of young guys that are very energized and motivated. I like the themes and the aspects that coach (Chris) Jones brings to those guys. He really reaches those guys at a young age. I know they’re going to win 6A this year.”