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SMITH COLUMN: No guarantee, but Starkville can win crown

November 28, 2012


No, Starkville High School football coach Jamie Mitchell wasn't guaranteeing a victory in the Class 5A State championship game when he said Friday night "we are going to win it."

Before everyone gets all excited and thinks Mitchell was pulling a "Joe Namath" moment here, it is important to put his comment in the proper context.

Mitchell believes his Yellowjackets will take the approach that they are going to Jackson on Saturday with the intent on playing hard and putting forth the type of effort that will be good enough to win the game.

He was making sure everyone understood that Starkville is not just happy to be in the State championship game this year. The goal is to play to win and not to lose.

The Jackets play the Pascagoula Panthers for the State championship at 7 p.m. and there should be a measure of confidence for SHS going into this game.

When the Jackets made the Class 5A State championship outing last season, they had not been on that stage since 2001 and there were probably some butterflies for the players. Picayune came out, made a few plays and defeated Starkville 38-21.

Some of the same Jackets that experienced that sting of defeat are back for another attempt to bring home the title. Quarterback Gabe Myles, running back Preston Baker and defensive end David Fair are just three that come to mind immediately.

All three of those players have battled injuries this season to come back and lead SHS. Myles and Baker experienced sprained ankles and Fair continues to play with a knee that basically has no anterior cruciate ligament. What Fair lacks in a knee ligament, he makes up for with heart.

Myles, a Mississippi State commitment, was recruited as a defensive back, but has continued to show his worth as a valuable signal caller for the Jackets.

As the ultimate team player, Myles never wants to take a great deal of credit for the success SHS enjoys on the football field, but the things he did during last Friday's 29-28 victory over the West Point Green Wave were incredible. With the game on the line and Starkville behind 28-21, Myles made a couple of plays to rally his team in overtime.

Myles completed touchdown pass to Kentrell Spencer on 4th-and-15 to close the gap to 28-27, then he ran in the two-point conversion for the win. For the season, Myles has 1,700 yards of total offense.

As far as Baker, he continues to come up with a big run when it seems the Jackets need it the most. Even missing a little bit of time this season with a severe sprained ankle, Baker has become the team's leading rusher with 867 yards on 119 carries and 10 touchdowns.

Pascagoula will definitely be no pushover for Starkville and the Jackets better not take the mindset down to Jackson that it will be easy. The Panthers knocked the team out of the playoffs that defeated SHS for last year's State championship (Picayune 27-10).

The Jackets definitely have the momentum with 10-straight victories and do seem to be playing their best football of the year.

Even though it wouldn't be smart for Mitchell or anyone else in the SHS camp to say "we will win," they have every reason to be confident in what it can do.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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