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The gap is getting more narrow between winning and losing for the Starkville Academy Volunteers.
After dropping an 8-6 decision to the Ackerman Indians in the season-opener, the Volunteers came back to lose by only a single point to the Lamar School Raiders 21-20 Friday night at J.E. Logan Field.
"The players understand, the coaches understand and I believe the Starkville family understands where this program was," Starkville Academy coach Jeff Terrill said. "One thing I told the team was that they were in the ballgame. They didn't lose a game in overtime last year and not by a point or maybe a yard. We realize we've still come a long way, but we're determined to win and that's our goal. I told them there aren't many young men who would want to fight the fight they are having to fight, but I'm proud of them for what they are doing. You can write this down, we will win."
Lamar School scored the decided touchdown with 8:44 remaining in the third quarter on a 3-yard run by Michael Marcello and had to hold on to that 21-20 lead the rest of the way despite the Vols fighting tooth and nail to get the advantage back.
The Raiders seemed glad to be able to get out of Starkville with a one-point as his squad took a knee inside the 10-yard line to run out the clock.
"That was a hard fought ballgame between two teams trying very hard," Lamar School coach Mac Barnes said. "That's the way the game should have ended."
After the Raiders jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard scoring run by John Clinton McElroy with 11:23 in the first quarter, the Vols came right back with the big play as Kyle Henson hit Ryan McKell with a 78-yard scoring pass.
Starkville Academy scored two more touchdowns in the second quarter with one on a 6-yard run by Matt Word and the other on a 13-yard run by James Mapp.
However, the Vols failed to score in the second half and Terrill credited the adjustments Barnes and his staff made at halftime defensively.
"They totally out-coached Coach Terrill," Terrill said. "Coach Terrill takes the blame for this one."
As Starkville Academy's offense sputtered in the second half, the Raiders got the winning score in the third quarter on a 3-yard run by Michael Marcello, who also had a 14-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Terrill said the difference in the game was Lamar keeping the defense of the Vols "on our heels" in the second half.
"We wanted to be more physical than them and really weren't," Terrill said. "That was probably one of the most disappointing things.
"When it comes down to winning a close game, you've got to make some plays. We didn't and they did. We give them a lot of credit."
Despite coming up short once again, Terrill doesn't want the players to lose faith and admits it will be a challenge keeping them up.
"The hardest part is where we are right now," Terrill said. "The biggest difference right now is Lamar has won and the kids believe they can win and our kids have that doubt in the back of their mind. That last inch is the hardest to get."
Starkville Academy out-rushed Lamar 140 yards to 122 and Ryan Mann had 45 of those yards on nine carries.
Henson completed 2 of 8 pass attempts for 106 yards and both completions went to McKell. Adam Crittenden had five tackles to pace the defense.
Even though he was down about another loss, Henson doesn't think it will be long before the Vols get that taste of victory.
"It's coming, but it's tough though," Henson said. "Losing is tough, but it's coming for us. We were down (to Lamar) 30 points at halftime last year. We have a whole different team."
Starkville Academy (0-2) returns home next week against Heritage Academy.