STARKVILLE — This is the point in the season where the Starkville High School football team will know little to nothing about its opponents.
Since the Mississippi High School Athletic Association reclassified schools for the 2011-12 school year and dropped Starkville from Class 6A to 5A, coach Jamie Mitchell knew his program would learn about its new region as it went through the 2011 campaign.
Starkville (2-2) will begin to figure out how it stacks up in Region 2 at 7:30 tonight when it plays host to Jackson Lanier (0-4).
“It’s was our biggest fear once they put us in the region we ended up in,” Mitchell said. “Our kids are going to know all about West Point, Tupelo, Noxubee County, and Madison Central. They’ve never had to worry about schools like Lanier.”
While most coaches might be pleased to have a bye week to evaluate themselves before the start of region play, Mitchell said he would’ve preferred to have prepared for a game.
“I didn’t like it, and it’s something I worried about in terms of my kids’ motivation for last week,” Mitchell said. “I was so worried our kids would be flat and not focused, but they did much better with it than I anticipated.”
Besides watching some film of Lanier, Mitchell decided to use this week of practice to correct the fundamental mistakes his squad made in road losses to Noxubee County and West Point.
“We know going in our non-district schedule is a gauntlet that can get us prepared to play anybody in Class 5A football,” Mitchell said. “Everything is in front of us, including winning our district and making a run in the postseason.”
After trying to limit the punishment and contact during games for dual-threat quarterback Gabe Myles, Mitchell said the junior will be “turned loose” in the Yellow Jackets’ spread-option attack.
“I’m so proud of him so far in terms of his leadership in that huddle and his ability to make plays for his with his legs and his arm this season,” Mitchell said. “Our offense is lot further along than I thought and he’s a major part of the equation for that.”
Myles has 581 total yards (474 passing, 107 rushing) and three touchdowns.
Junior Jarrid Smith Lanier (214 yards, three touchdowns) leads Lanier. He had 15 tackles in one game this season.
Lanier suffered a severe off-the-field blow when two-sport athlete Deronnie Spencer was shot and killed in July. Spencer was in the passenger seat of a vehicle only a couple miles away from Lanier High when he was shot in the head, neck, and chest. He was transported to the University Medical Center and died the next morning.