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Jackets host Tigers for season opener

August 16, 2012

Starkville running back Preston Baker (2) tries to break a tackle in last year's game against Noxubee County. (Photo by David Allen Williams, For Starkville Daily News)

Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell has been in search of a center and long snapper during the preseason.

Going into tonight's game, Mitchell believes he has found two players in Jalen Henderson and Chris Rogers who can handle the task.

Henderson is expected to start at center and Rogers is set to perform the long snapping when the Yellowjackets host the Noxubee County Tigers at 7:30 p.m.

It has been a reunion of sorts for Mitchell and Henderson. Mitchell coached Henderson at Itawamba AHS.

"It's amazing how things worked out," Mitchell said. "He was a junior high kid when I left there. His folks ended up moving here and he's going to start at center for us."

As far as long snapping, Mitchell asked the players after a preseason scrimmage that anyone who could help in that area needs to come forward.
Rogers has made an impression on Mitchell in practice.

"He's really stepped up with our punt snapping," Mitchell said. "It's been such a blessing there and it looks like we've finally found the one. He can get the ball back there without question. We've got to prove that in the game, but (Henderson and Rogers) have done well in practice."

Mitchell said there has been a buzz in the halls at SHS about opening another football season.

It has been the approach this season to just focus on one game at a time and Noxubee County with its strong defense and talented running back is up first on the list.

"We're going to enjoy this week one," Mitchell said. "We don't talk about next week or down the road. We are focused on Noxubee and that's going to be our approach every week. We're going to put everything we've got into each Friday night."

Mitchell said the Jackets had two of their best practices of the preseason on Monday and Tuesday.

The coaching staff turned up the tempo to see how the players would respond and Mitchell liked what he saw.

"We put the gas down on them a little bit and made them respond quicker," Mitchell said. "They've done a good job with that."

One player who will not be available against the Tigers will be Darius Grayer, a utility player on offense and defense who had surgery on his thumb.

"We hope he will be back the next week for Madison Central. We thought we might get him this week, but he's just not going to make it."

Defensive lineman Cal Jones is suffering from shoulder soreness and his play is expected to be limited against Noxubee County.

Prior to the game at approximately 7:20 p.m. and immediately following the national anthem, there will be a ceremony remembering the late Devin Mitchell. Devin, who would have been a senior on this year's team, died from a gunshot on Jan. 1 in West Point. Coach Mitchell, SHS athletic director Stan Miller, the team and Devin's parents will be taking part in the ceremony.

"We're expecting a huge crowd so hopefully people will get here early," Mitchell said. "We're hoping (the rain) will miss us."

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