For fans of the Columbus-Starkville high school football rivalry, you might be in luck this year after all.
Columbus and Starkville typically do not play one another if the teams are in different regions and thus not required do so.
After playing for several seasons in a row, the series was halted after 2010 when Columbus moved to Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A competition. Starkville remained in Class 5A.
After missing 2011 and 2012, the teams played again as Class 6A, Region 2 rivals in 2013 and 2014. Again, the series was put on hold this year when Columbus was reassigned to Region 1, while Starkville remained in Region 2.
Honestly, it just makes no sense. The campuses are less than 30 miles apart. The cities are always competing in some type of friendly rivalry. It would make sense for the schools to still play, especially when the game is usually one of the larger box offices each season.
While the series is on hold for this regular season, it appears there may be hope. The teams may be in line to meet in a playoff game.
Both Columbus and Starkville are off to 2-0 starts in region play. As we dig deeper, both teams also appear to have some legitimate staying power.
In Oktibbeha County, Starkville is off to a 5-1 start in Ricky Woods’ first season as head coach.
Starkville has opened region play with a 49-7 win over Callaway and a 30-7 win over Northwest Rankin. Overall, Starkville has won five straight since a season-opening loss to Noxubee County.
Senior Montario Montgomery his hitting his stride. Montgomery has completed 58.8 percent of his passes (80-of-136) for 1,173 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. Four of the five interceptions came in the first two games.
Taking the place of Brady Davis, one knew a key to Starkville’s season would be how quickly Montgomery found a comfort level at the quarterback position.
Montgomery is finally doing just that. He has developed good chemistry with his receivers and also established himself as a leader on the practice field and in the huddle.
On the ground, senior Avery Brown was going to be asked to take the huge rushing load left behind by Jacquez Horsley and Matt Fuller. Brown drew a couple of starts last season while Horsley and Fuller were out with injury.
One can tell how much that valuable experience has paid off this season. Avery Brown has rushed for 604 yards and five touchdowns.
A.J. Brown is the team’s most talented player and has not disappointed. Now the marquee target in the pass offense, A.J. Brown has 44 catches for 638 yards and four touchdowns.
On defense, Starkville has allowed 47 points, which includes giving up 26 in the loss to Noxubee County.
Meanwhile, coach Randal Montgomery is still doing wonders in his second season at Columbus. The Falcons have already matched last season’s win total.
Columbus is 4-2 overall with back-to-back region wins over DeSoto Central (23-21) and Tupelo (33-9). The losses were early in the season to West Point and also Noxubee County.
After rallying from down 21-10 at halftime to beat DeSoto Central, it is hard to find fault in the last six quarters played by Columbus. The Falcons have allowed one touchdown during that stretch after a short punt set up a 17-yard scoring drive (which still took seven plays).
Throughout the season, the Columbus defense has always led the way. Now, the offense is ready to join the party.
Junior running back Kylin Hill has had back-to-back 200-yard rushing games. Fellow junior Kendre Conner also had a 200-yard performance against New Hope.
Columbus winning both of its region games so far is even more a surprise, since Conner has been sidelined by an ankle injury. Junior quarterback C.J. Gholar helps give Columbus three legitimate options to run with the football.
In the air, Columbus is still a work in progress. Gholar has completed 46-of-93 passes for 553 yards, with five interceptions but only two touchdowns. There is little secret that Columbus will need to get a little more from the air game as the season progresses.
Columbus does have strong offensive and defensive lines. The Falcons are also sound in the kicking game, with sophomore Chris Taylor leading the way.
While South Panola is the state’s top-ranked team by the Associated Press (Starkville is second), it appears Class 6A is wide open. Both Region 1 and Region 2 are not good as they were a year ago. That bodes well for the local teams.
Starkville is looking for a fifth straight playoff apperance. Columbus is looking to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2012.
In the last two series meetings (2013 and 2014), Starkville beat Columbus by a combined score of 78-13.
However, the times are changing. This is a new Columbus team. It would relish a chance to play Starkville in the postseason.
Columbus plays host to Horn Lake Friday, while Starkville goes to Greenville. Both Horn Lake and Greenville are winless in region play.
This means next week at this time, we could be one week closer to a rivalry renewal.
Scott Walters is a sports writer for The Dispatch. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.