STARKVILLE — High school football coaches wrestle each season with how to deal with an open date.
Coaches must decide which days to practice, how long to practice, and whether to focus more on upcoming opponents or their teams.
For Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell, the open date posed even more mystery.
Top-ranked Starkville will try to continue its fast start at 7 tonight against Florence (Ala.) at Braly Municipal Stadium on the campus of the University of North Alabama.
“Hopefully, we can continue where we left off,” Mitchell said. “Each coach reacts to an open date differently. In our case, we were playing really well, so you hope you don’t lose some of that. I am excited about the opportunity to play again against a really good opponent.”
Starkville has won its games by an average of 29 points. The Yellow Jackets haven’t trailed against Noxubee County, Oxford, and West Point.
“The biggest thing for us is staying humble,” Starkville senior running back Matt Fuller said. “We can’t forget where we came from and how hard we have worked to get to this point. Our motto each week is no plays off. We are determined to go as hard as we can for as long as we can each week.”
Florence enters the game No. 6 in Class 6A in the Alabama High School Activities Association’s weekly rankings. The Falcons have won two straight by an average margin of 18 points after opening the season with a loss to Shades Valley.
“Florence has several offensive weapons, so this will be a big test,” Mitchell said. “It’s a challenge anytime you play someone outside the area because you are not as familiar with the personnel. We have a reputation, so you know there guys are looking forward to playing this game as much as we are.”
Senior quarterback Brady Davis has completed 57 percent of his passes for 832 yards He has 10 touchdowns and one interception. Davis said the time off allowed the Yellow Jackets to concentrate on ways to become better.
“We spend a lot of time focusing on ourselves,” Davis said. “There are always ways to get better as a team, and we have been working hard to find those ways. Even when you win games, you have things you can do better.”
Starkville has ascended to the top spot in each of the state’s rankings. In building support for a Class 6A title run, the key will be to get the momentum going again.
“We have done well through three games, but we know that doesn’t mean anything,” Fuller said. “We got some really big games ahead. If we don’t continue to improve and win more games, the early ones won’t matter as much. Everybody is excited about 3-0, but we know how much more we have to get done.”
Starkville will open Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 2 play next Friday night when it plays host to Columbus. Mitchell hopes his team is in a good place when the Falcons come to town.
“We have made a lot of progress since the start of the season,” Mitchell said. “Every team has their concerns. We are slowly getting answers for some of the things we were worried about. This team has lot of confidence. We just have to go out and continue to make plays.”
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.