STARKVILLE — History hasn’t been kind to Starkville Academy football when it comes to playing Jackson Academy.
The two schools have faced off 17 times, but the Volunteers have won just one of those 17 matchups: a 26-22 win on Halloween in 2014.
Jackson Academy is currently riding a three-game winning streak since 2014, but Starkville Academy looks to turn the tides as the Volunteers host the Raiders on Friday night.
“They’re just another team to us,” Starkville Academy head coach Chase Nicholson said. “Yes, don’t get me wrong, they have a great tradition and are a great football team, but they’re teenage boys on a Friday night. It could be anybody’s game.”
For anyone outside the program, Friday looks like a revenge game after the Raiders blanked the Volunteers, 37-0, last August down in Jackson.
However, within the walls of Starkville Academy’s athletics building, Nicholson and the coaching staff preach the same mentality week to week.
“We can’t get up for one school that we don’t get up for another school,” Nicholson said. “Every game is important to us. We have to get up for this game just like we will next week, just like we did last week, just like we will weeks from now.”
The Volunteers are coming off a season-opening 24-22 win over Lamar, a game they led 17-7 at halftime and in which they were able to maintain the lead throughout the second half, fending off a late comeback.
Having a game in hand heading into Friday is a big help for getting settled into the season. Now, the special teams unit, offense and defense all have a taste of competition already.
However, as good as that is from a comfortability standpoint, this is Jackson Academy’s first game, so while they have game film on the Volunteers, the Volunteers don’t have game film on the Raiders.
“We don’t have anything on them because they have a new coach,” senior wide receiver Drew Williams said. “We’re kind of going in blind, so we’re just feeling our way through right now. We’re going to stick to what we do and try to perform as best as we can.”
Last Friday’s game saw Starkville Academy establish the run early and often against Lamar as a solid offensive line allowed players like senior Charlie Nicholas to find gaps and cut through.
Jackson Academy is going to be a tough task for this offense as the Raiders were one of the better MAIS Class 6A schools last season in overall team defense, allowing 22.1 points per game.
Even with a difference in class size from 5A to 6A and a great defense ahead, the Volunteers don’t seem phased and are excited for the challenge. The biggest thing is continuing to establish the run, which will open up the floodgates on the passing side.
“We faced a really good defensive line and defensive front seven last week,” Nicholas said. “Our offensive line did a great job, and we ran the ball decently. We’re going to try to build off that momentum and keep doing what we do.”
In this matchup — one that dates back to 1984 — Starkville Academy’s lone win was at home. On Friday, the Vols will be playing in front of the home crowd for the first time in this matchup since that Halloween game in 2014.
It’s expected to be a packed house, but the added benefit of being at home, not having a four-hour round trip ride to Jackson and back, will be a factor.
“That will be an advantage for us, being able to play in front of our home crowd our senior year,” Williams said. “That will be a whole lot of fun.”
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