Win or go home: It's playoff time for Volunteers

Starkville Academy coaches Tony Stanford, left, and Chase Nicholson
Staff Writer

Check one box off the list for what the Starkville Academy Volunteers wanted to accomplish this season.

The Vols wanted to be District 2-AAA champions and they got that done by defeating Leake Academy 21-13 last week.

Now that the regular season is done, Starkville Academy has reached the part of the season where it’s win or go home. It’s playoff time.

In the case of the Vols, they have homefield advantage and take on Park Place Christian Academy Friday night to start the AAA postseason.

Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson has been very proud with what his team has accomplished to this point by sweeping all four games for the district title, having a 9-1 overall mark and getting a No. 5 ranking among private schools in the Mississippi Prep Polls, but he knows all of that is in the past now.

“We’ve beaten some good teams along the way,” Nicholson said. “We’ve had a lot of fun and have had a great year so far, but none of that means nothing anymore. We’re very pleased about the season and we’re going to look back on it, laugh later about it and remember it, but right now we’ve still got work to do. That’s the truth.

“I’m certainly not taking anything away from the great season our guys have had, but if we linger on that, it’s not going to help us going forward. We go back to work. We’re proud too. (The district championship) was the first check box. Now we’re in the playoffs. Let’s win. How did we get in position to play for a district championship? Remember those things. That’s what got you here and that’s what keeps you going.”

The Vols had a heart-to-heart talk on Sunday following the victory over Leake Academy about where they are what they want to do.

For senior quarterback Noah Methvin, everything accomplished so far can be “thrown out the window” because he’s not done winning yet.

“We are real blessed to be in the situation we are,” Methvin said. “A lot of people overlook a 2 and 15 (seeded) game, but we are making sure we are focusing on Park Place because that’s who we have (Friday).
“You’ve got to go 1-0 every week and that’s how you’ve got to approach it. There are four games at the end and that’s what we’re hoping to get to, but we’re doing it one week at a time to get there.”

Methvin reached the 100-attempt mark in passing during the win over Leake. He has completed 55 of those for 625 yards and 11 touchdowns. Ben Owens has also been a valuable signal caller for Starkville Academy by completing 49-of-94 pass attempts for 648 yards and six scores.

Taylor Arnold continues to produce as the leading rusher for the Vols with 129 carries for 932 yards and six touchdowns, while Raegan Richardson leads all receivers with 47 catches for 638 yards and seven touchdowns.

Defensively for Starkville Academy, Will Miller has 122 total tackles and 10 sacks.

“They don’t have a weakness,” Park Place Christian coach Doug Elkins said. “They have a fantastic coaching staff. A couple of those retired public school guys (Bubba Davis and Tony Stanford) I’m familiar with and that’s me. I just retired myself from public in June and there have been some new things for me to figure out with the private school deal.”

The Vols don’t want to give Elkins and the Crusaders the chance to figure them out this week.

Defensive end Kyle Faver knows tonight could easily be the last night for Starkville Academy to play football this season if it doesn’t take the situation seriously.

He for one does not want that to happen.

“If we don’t come out, play and execute like we’re supposed to on offense and play fast like we do on defense, it could all be over,” Faver said. “An upset always happens. It happens all the time. It could very easily happen to us. We’ve just got to come out, play how we are supposed to and we should be fine.”