Sometimes things just come together.
That’s the best way veteran high school football coach Jack French knows how to explain Starkville Academy’s 2005 Mississippi Private Schools Association Class AAA, Division II state championship.
“Everything just kind of worked out right,” said French, who led the Volunteers to a 10-2 record and a 31-7 title win against Heritage Academy in his only year at Starkville Academy. “That was just a pretty strange year. You had (Hurricane) Katrina and that caused some changes in the schedule and kind of threw everything off.”
Starkville Academy had open dates two of the last four weeks, which French said allowed the Volunteers to go into the title game well-prepared and healthy.
“I don’t think anybody expected us to do what we did,” French said. “Everything just fell right and we played good the weeks we had to. When we hit the playoffs we were just getting stronger.”
Starkville Academy will seek another state title in the re-named Mississippi Association of Independent Schools at 2 p.m. Friday when it takes on Greenville Washington School for the AAA-II title at Mississippi College’s Robinson-Hale Stadium in Clinton.
Ronnie White, who was an assistant football coach at Starkville Academy from 2000-2008, said nobody expected a state title in 2005, but he said it was easy to see the opportunity was there.
“That senior class went undefeated as ninth-graders,” White said. “The guys who were the key contributors that ninth-grade year were the same guys who contributed in 2005. The potential was there.”
French said it didn’t hurt the school had a history of championships.
“They could look on the wall and see (the school) had won championships,” said French, who just completed his first year as coach of Class 6A Baker High School in Mobile, Ala. “They knew it was possible. There is a little tradition there. You were in a place where people appreciated good football and winning.”
Brad Moore, who was a senior wide receiver/defensive back on the 2005 squad, still has the state championship rings he earned in football and soccer that year.
“We really didn’t know we would have such a successful year,” Moore admitted. “We just had a bunch of guys who had grown up playing together and were familiar with each other.”
French also said the Volunteers also had plenty of talent.
“Those were some great kids who wanted to play football,” French said. “We had a lot of talent at wide receiver and defensive back and would get after you on defense.”
The plethora of talent at receiver (Moore, French, Matthew McKenzie, Trey White, Terry Silva, and Cole Andrews) allowed French and the Volunteers to be a little bit ahead of their time, as they used four wideouts, a quarterback in the shot gun, and one running back at times on offense.
“Jason Coates was our quarterback and he had a very good arm,” French said. “We had a chance to beat you in the air, but we had a good running game as well.”
At times French would insert his son, Catlin, at quarterback and run sort of a ‘Wild Vol’ type offense.
“I think we did that before everybody else,” coach French said. “It was just something new. We just had a lot of things we were able to do.”
Said White, “We could really run. Maybe they could match up with one or two of our guys, but nobody we played could do that with all four of them. It was just a special group.”
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.