STARKVILLE — Starkville High School senior quarterback Montario Montgomery doesn’t care what the Yellow Jackets did in the first four games of the season.
The Yellow Jackets are 3-1 after five weeks, but the real season will start at Friday. That’s when Starkville travel to Jackson to take on Callaway (4-1) at 7 p.m. Newell Field in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 2 game.
“We know we’ve got to focus now. We know we’ve got to practice harder every day to get better because these are the games that count,” Montgomery said. “Despite the game we loss and despite the games we won, they don’t matter because these seven games are all that matter.”
In his first year as a starter, Montgomery is 56 of 91 for 712 yards and four touchdowns (four interceptions).
Starkville opened the season with a 26-20 double-overtime loss at Noxubee County, but it has bounced back to beat Oxford (20-7), West Point (16-0), and KIPP (Tenn.) Collegiate (48-0) two weeks ago.
Starkville has only lost one district game since 2011, and five since 2010. The Yellow Jackets won the Class 5A state championship in 2012 before moving to Class 6A in 2013. Starkville lost to Warren Central 12-9 on the road in 2013 and finished in a three-way tie for first for the district championship. Starkville entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed that year, as Madison Central won the tiebreaker. Last season, Starkville swept through district play and played for the Class 6A North state championship.
“It’s all or nothing now,” senior wide receiver A.J. Brown said. “You’re trying to get in a good situation so we can be sitting in a good seat later on down the road.”
Brown leads the team with 36 catches for 411 yards. His only touchdown came against Noxubee County. Senior Rontavis Clark, a transfer from West Lowndes High, leads the team with two touchdowns. He has four catches for 124 yards.
Brown and some of the seniors and junior linebacker Willie Gay have talked to the younger players about what’s at stake.
“Some of them might think just because we’re 3-1, we’re good for the season,” Gay said. “Those games don’t matter. It’s these games that count.”
Gay has 22 tackles (three for loss), one interception, and two pass breakups. Starkville’s defense hasn’t allowed a point in the last two games. The last points Starkville surrendered came in the first quarter against Oxford, a span of 11 quarters.
Last week, Starkville had a bye week, but it wasn’t a total week off.
“I think the week off helped us,” Starkville first-year head coach Ricky Woods said. “We got better and we could be more physical at practice and just work on basic fundamentals.”
Woods said they practiced for about 30 minutes less each day before taking Friday off.
Brown said the Yellow Jackets are ready to get back to work after the layoff. Gay said last week felt weird going through practice and not having a game Friday. But there has been a different type of focus this week, and Montgomery gives all the credit to the coaching staff.
“They keep us humble, they keep us level-minded, and they keep telling us every day, ‘You’ve got to get better every day. If you slack one day, you might lose,’ ” Montgomery said.
Callaway opened the season with three-straight victories before falling to Forest Hill at home. Last week, Callaway beat Terry 34-13.
“They’re very athletic and big,” Woods said. “We’ve got to contain them. We can’t let them have long runs and big plays, and we’ve got to be able to run the football.”
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.