Starkville Academy head coach Chase Nicholson said his team had a complete practice this past week and it showed on the field.
The Volunteers entered the win column at J.E. Logan Field on Friday night with a 28-14 decision over Lamar School.
There were several things that just didn’t go in favor of Starkville Academy when it dropped the season opener to Jackson Academy last week. From limited staff to offense not finding their rhythm, Nicholson told his team that it would have to go in with a different mentality for its home opener.
“We went in down some players last week,” Nicholson said. “We didn’t have everybody due to COVID and injuries, so we weren’t at full staff. Now we had everybody back minus one, so we went in a little different mentality. Our guys fought through it all last week knowing we were down. They worked and practiced really hard. We couldn’t just get anything going on offense. Defense was playing really hard for a half last week.”
After watching his team’s performance last week, Nicholson is recognizing his team and what it’s capable of doing.
“We looked like ourselves out there,” Nicholson said. “Defensively, we were flying around and doing what we’re supposed to be doing, so we’ve played great defense two weeks in a row. It’s still a growing thing. We’ve got to continue to get better. We’ve got plenty of mistakes to clean up, but I’m proud of how our guys competed and played.”
Seeing the Vol offense finding its rhythm that can really damage opposing defenses is something that makes Nicholson sleep better at night.
“I called the plays and anytime that we’re not being efficient and we’re not moving the ball, I put it on myself, and we’ve just got to do a better job,” Nicholson said. “That’s what it was about last week and this week was really about. Anytime that we’re controlling the ball on the ground, that’s when we can throw the ball the way we want to. (Friday night) was the first time we really tried to find our offensive identity and we started to find it.”
The Starkville Academy defense has played with a chip on its shoulder for the first two games thus far. Veteran linebacker Bo Carter said that the unit always strives to be a unit to be reckoned with.
“Play hard, play physical, and play fast – that’s what we’ve been taught all our years of high school football,” Carter said. “It’s just be the bigger team and beat down on them until they give up.”
One of the big tasks for the defensive unit was to slow down and contain Lamar quarterback Zagar Cooper and running back Austin Acton.
Carter said the secret to accomplishing that was to put pressure on their offensive line.
“Just put pressure on their O-line, overload them and get behind them before they can block us basically,” Carter said.
Vols quarterback Randall Futral said it “felt amazing” for the offense to find a rhythm and put points on the board after last week’s frustrations.
“We were able to connect some passes,” Futral said. “We had some holes open up for the running backs to hit and I found some holes myself. It started with the defense getting big stops and being energetic. We feed off them. They make the plays, and we get the momentum from them.”
Lamar struck first off a 2-yard quarterback keeper by Cooper, but it wasn’t until early in the second quarter when Starkville Academy took that lead away and never gave it back.
Running back Hayes Davis took a direct snap to punch the first score for the Vols in from a half yard out to tie it.
The most impressive drive by Starkville Academy’s offense was also the shortest.
Midway through the second quarter, Futral connected to Brady Johnson for a 42-yard gain to set up a 22-yard touchdown pass to Drew Williams the next play. The following PAT failed to make Starkville Academy’s initial lead at 13-7 with 6:17 left in the first half.
To compensate for the missing point, Futral punched it in from 2 yards left and connected to Brody Bennett for the two-point conversion.
The last touchdown of the night for the Vols came from an 11-yard run as running back Cole Owens chewed his way through three tacklers on his way to paydirt.
With 1:31 left, Lamar found a garbage time score off a 1-yard quarterback keeper by Cooper.