Coach Jamie Mitchell, middle, and his Yellowjackets host the Ridgeland Titans in a key Class 5A, Region 2 clash tonight. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Starkville Yellowjackets want to win their second-straight Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 championship this season.
Once again, the Ridgeland Titans are standing in Starkville's way.
The Jackets know a victory over the Titans in tonight's 7 p.m. meeting at Yellowjacket Stadium will go a long way in helping them achieve their goals.
"You can't lie to kids because they know the bigger games," SHS head football coach Jamie Mitchell said. "They know this is a huge game in our division, so this is one I know our kids will be ready for."
The two teams enter the matchup with 2-0 region records. Starkville (3-3 overall) has defeated Lanier 48-0 and Provine 23-6 in the region, while Ridgeland (4-2 overall) has wins against Lanier 48-6 and Canton 27-0.
The Jackets defeated the Titans twice in Ridgeland last season, once in the regular season and the other in the Class 5A North Championship game.
Starkville was locked in tough battles in each meeting, so Mitchell knows what type of challenge is in store for his squad tonight.
After celebrating a North title on the Titans' home field last year, Mitchell knows they would like nothing more than to defeat his Jackets in Starkville.
"They are extremely well-coached and (Ridgeland coach) Kenny Burton is a good friend of mine," Mitchell said. "He does a great job with them. They are probably better offensively this year than they were a year ago."
One of the reasons Mitchell feels that way about the Titans is the play of quarterback Parker Lohman. Lohman has accounted for 920 yards of total offense.
"The quarterback they have now is more of a dual-threat guy," Mitchell said. "He's a guy who can run and throw it. Both receivers are back and very good. They both made big plays against us in the first game (last season). We handled them OK in the second game, but they both have big-play potential."
After playing four tough non-conference games and emerging from those with a 1-3 mark, Mitchell has watched his SHS team improve.
The comfort level for the players is obvious to Mitchell from what he has been able to see on film of practice this week.
"The things we're starting to do leads me to believe we are getting better on both sides of the ball, especially offensively," Mitchell said. "I've seen some guys starting to have some cohesiveness. Those that were thrust into action early are starting to come around now and learning a lot more."
Mitchell has his own quarterback, who is pretty good at throwing or running with the football for the Jackets in Gabe Myles.
Although he does not have the numbers as Lohman does, Myles has been productive since returning from a sprained ankle. Myles has completed 28 of 59 pass attempts for 361 yards and has rushed 50 times for 122 yards.
"He's the guy that makes us go," Mitchell said of Myles. "It helps us to be able to spread the ball around. A lot of people are catching the ball and a lot of people are running the ball. It's hard (for opponents) to load up on one particular thing. It has helped us be a little more difficult to defend."
Mitchell said that senior running back Preston Baker is expected to be close to 100 percent for SHS after recovering from a severe sprained ankle against West Point.
It's the leadership that Baker shows to players like sophomore Jaquez Horsley (49 carries for 296 yards) that makes him being on the field so valuable.
"He obviously gives us such a big boost, and it's going to be great having him back," Mitchell said. "(A leader) is exactly what a senior should be. Horsley has got a good one to look up to. It will be great to have both of them on the field (tonight)."
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