SA uses defense, Arnold to blank Winston Academy

Starkville Academy's Taylor Arnold (10) runs over a Winston Academy defender.
Staff Writer

It wasn’t near perfect for the Starkville Academy Volunteers.

Starkville Academy encountered penalties, fumbles, interceptions and missed field goals.

Despite all of that, there were two constants for Starkville Academy – a suffocating defense and running back Taylor Arnold.

The defense, which was led by Kyle Faver, was relentless for all four quarters. Meanwhile, Arnold moved the chains and gashed the Winston Academy defense. When the final horn sounded, SA (5-1, 1-0) started the 2-AAA season off right with a 36-0 blowout win.

“I’m not at all disappointed,” Starkville Academy head coach Chase Nicholson said. “We’ve just got to correct those mistakes. I’m proud of the defense. I thought they played lights out for two weeks in a row now. I’m very proud of what we did (Friday night). We put the offense in great position to score and that’s what great defenses do.”

With starting quarterback Ben Owens out with a minor knee injury, Noah Methvin was back at quarterback and performed well going 10-for-18 passing for 105 yards and two touchdowns as well as two more on the ground. Raegan and Brady Richardson were his top targets with 64 and 29 yards receiving respectively and a touchdown each.

The difference was Arnold, however. The junior running back was stellar again on Friday rushing 18 times for 186 yards and a score.

The mistakes piled up for Starkville Academy, which fumbled inside the 10, threw an interception and missed a field goal on its first three possessions. Methvin finally broke them through midway through the second quarter when he scored on the ground from 8 yards out for a 7-0 lead at halftime.

At the start of the half, SA’s offense took advantage of a Winston fumble and Methvin ran in his second touchdown as he scored from 11 yards out. The Vols were off the races from there.

Methvin came back on the next possession with an 8-yard pass to a wide open Raegan Richardson and it was 21-0 after three quarters.

Arnold’s big night was stamped with an exclamation point in the fourth when he saw a seam on the left side, broke a tackle and raced for a 51-yard touchdown. It had been building all game, but he finally got in the end zone.

“Every time I got down to the red zone, they tried to get it to me, but it just didn’t happen,” Arnold said. “It finally paid off at the end.”

On the next possession, Brady Richardson intercepted a pass and a play later made a diving 25-yard touchdown for the 35-0 lead. Will Miller closed the scoring when he sacked Winston quarterback Luke Dempsey for the safety and the Vols won in a rout.

While Arnold was more than impressive, Nicholson raved about his defensive end Faver, who sets the tone of the unit. The senior was routinely in the backfield making plays and keeping the Patriots out of rhythm.

“He’s come on and really been a great leader," Nicholson said. "He’s accepted his role as a leader and sees that the defense is his.”

The Vols now turn their attention to homecoming next week when they welcome Pillow Academy next Friday for homecoming. Until then, Arnold and company will celebrate their opening district win.

“(Being) 1-0 in district play is big," Nicholson said. "It gives us a ton of momentum heading into the rest of the season. We’re excited about starting with a win and continuing to get better.”