December 30, 2017 10:46:13 PM
STARKVILLE -- Responsibility comes with age.
It sounds simple, but Kyle Faver recognized early in the 2017 season he needed to play a bigger role if the Starkville Academy football team was going to have a season to remember.
With Noah Methvin, a defensive lineman, splitting time with Ben Owens at quarterback, Faver realized that he and senior classmate Zach Barnes were going to have to set the tone verbally and on the field for the Volunteers.
"I had done I before," Faver said. "I didn't play my sophomore year, but I played my junior year and I had been around those guys and they were good leaders on the defense. I followed what they did and it was pretty easy because they set a good example."
Barnes and Faver must have learned a lot from previous Volunteers because Starkville Academy's defense set the tone as one of the state's best units. Starkville Academy solidified that claim with a 21-14 overtime victory against Indianola Academy on Nov. 18 at Jackson Academy. The victory helped Starkville Academy (13-1) end the season on an 11-game winning streak and capture the program's seventh state title.
Faver was one of seven Volunteers -- Will Miller, Matt Miller, Willie Latham, Howell Archer, Campbell Spivey, and Barnes -- to record more than 100 tackles. With 115 tackles (65 solo), Faver finished second on the team to Will Miller in sacks with 13. He also led the team with five forced fumbles and was third with eight tackles and losses
"At the end of the day, we tried so hard to make sure it never became just about one person," Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson said. "It was such a team effort, and he was the face of that. He believed in that. They all did. Every one of them did. That is why it worked."
For his accomplishments, Faver is The Dispatch's Small Schools Defensive Player of the Year.
"Our defense was full of young guys," said Faver, who joined Noah Methvin in the MAIS Senior All-Star game. "Zach Barnes and I were the only seniors when Noah wasn't on the field. Zach is more of a quiet guy, but he is vocal enough that it was really put on me and him to rally the guys together. A bunch of the younger guys really came in and made it easier on Zach and I to be the only seniors, and they would get everybody together and calm everybody down, so it was really more of a group effort.
"I was there and I said a lot and tried to get the guys together, but it was more than just me."
Nicholson said Faver typically was the voice that piped up to remind the team of its goal to win a state title. Faver did so by providing a rallying cry -- "Nov. 18" -- that served to remind the Volunteers of how they needed to play and what they needed to do to get to the final game.
Methvin said Faver usually was the loudest voice on defense. He said his classmate wasn't just making noise, either. He said Faver's contributions were essential to the Volunteers' history-making run.
"His loudness had a huge effect," Methvin said. "It was really loud on the field in the state championship game. We had never experienced not being able to hear coach (Brad) Butler making the calls from the sideline. I told Kyle he had to look over to coach Butler and get the calls because they couldn't hear them.
"He had to be vocal then, and he is still vocal all of the time. He got everybody together whenever we needed a stop. It was really tough on him late in the year -- he would never say it -- because we played a lot more tight end in the last district game against Leake Academy and in the state championship. He did a really good job in that area."
Nicholson agreed and said Faver was the "voice, the life, and the spirit" of the defense. He feels Faver "picked up the mantle" when Methvin moved from defense to offense and made sure Volunteers continued to play at a high level.
If Methvin was the "face" of the team, he said Faver also had an "it factor." He believes both players were born with the ability to be leaders and to get their teammates to follow their example. Methvin acknowledged it might have been a burden, but Faver shouldered it by being a mainstay on defense and for answering the call on offense. His touchdown catch on a pass from Taylor Arnold in overtime gave Starkville Academy the lead in overtime in the state title game. The defense then held on fourth down when it smothered Indianola Academy following a fumble on the center-quarterback exchange.
The swarm that swallowed the football was a fitting ending to a season in which the Volunteers embraced a team-first approach on both sides of the football.
"Everybody had a good year," Faver said. "If you look at the stats, we had six or seven guys with more than 100 tackles. That doesn't happen very much, so it was easy to share the wealth. Toward the end of the year when we realized how good we were and how good we could be, everybody kind of stepped into their leadership roles. The seniors were there a lot and they said a lot, but the younger guys were there, too. Going into next year, they have a lot of leaders and a lot of players coming back."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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