SHS takes 'we believe' attitude to Meridian
Despite going against the second-ranked team in Class 6A tonight, the Starkville Yellowjackets believe they can play well and have a chance to win.
The Jackets have that opportunity on the road against the Meridian Wildcats at 7:30 p.m.
"Maybe we catch them at the right time," Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said. "(Meridian) just beat Wayne County in a big rivalry game so hopefully they are overlooking us a little bit and we'll have an opportunity to go down there and play.
"I know this, our guys are not going to fear anybody. They are going to respect everyone. They'll be ready to play when we get there."
The Jackets (1-1) followed a tough 14-7 home loss to Noxubee County the first week to a dominating 34-0 victory at Louisville.
Even with the shutout, Mitchell saw some things Starkville can improve on the defensive side of the football.
"We saw plenty wrong and I guess any coach does when you watch the film," Mitchell said. "Even though we played good defense, we feel like we still could have played better in places. (Louisville) frustrated us a little up front with some things they were doing, but there were a lot more pluses than negatives."
On offense, the Jackets had 404 yards rushing against Louisville and two players, quarterback Jaquez Johnson and tailback Garrett Smith, went over the 100-yard rushing mark.
Mitchell said the passing game isn't clicking like it needs to be and doesn't totally put the blame on Johnson.
"We've got to get better and it's not all Quez's fault," Mitchell said. "We had three drops so a lot of times he's making the correct throw and the ball is where it's supposed to be, but his numbers are the one's that look bad because of it.
"You get pressure one play and he has to throw the ball away and throw it before he's ready so it's not always on the quarterback. We've got to protect him, then we've got to catch it when we throw it."
Johnson has competed 8 of 25 pass attempts for 72 yards and a touchdown. He's the leading rusher for Starkville with 204 yards on 27 carries.
Smith emerged against Louisville and has 126 yards on 16 carries, which is a team-best average of 7.9 yards per carry.
With Preston Baker out with a broken jaw, Mitchell said Smith's play at tailback has been welcomed.
"He played exceptionally well," Mitchell said. "That's huge for us because we've been searching for a tailback. For the last week, he has ascerted himself and thank goodness, because we've been in desperate need for that. For the last week, he's been outstanding in practice and it showed that last Friday night."
When considering Meridian (2-0), Mitchell isn't buying into the fact that Weems believes his Wildcats are just surviving right now.
"Meridian is tremendously deserving of their ranking," Mitchell said. "If there's a better team in the South in 6A, I'd like to see them. Larry is doing a great job."
The Jackets are faced with two of the toughest back-to-back road games in the state with Meridian this week and West Point on Sept. 10.
"Our schedule doesn't help us," Mitchell said. "You'd like to have a little more success and the kids need that, but it's like I told them, this is our opportunity to beat the No. 2 ranked team in the state. Nobody else has that opportunity, but us this week. We're going to try and make the best of it."