Starkville Academy junior varsity celebrates win over Leake

For Starkville Daily News

A mob of orange clad kids jumped up and down around a man they believed in, “Coach Wright, Coach Wright, Coach Wright!” they yelled.

The cause for celebration was Starkville Academy's 17-8 victory over Leake Academy in junior varsity action Thursday night.

Head Coach Sam Wright said the reason to celebrate was the importance of the game to the kids and the staff;

“It is special because the last three times we have played this team we have come short," Wright said. "It just shows why I’m so emotional about it. These guy’s hard work has been something I have been asking them to do. I have been challenging them each week in and week out to play hard and it finally showed tonight, and it just spoke to what these guys wanted. The ninth graders were with me when they were seventh graders and they wanted this game so bad.”

Not much happened in the first quarter apart from a 28-yard field goal to put Starkville Academy up 3-0. In the second quarter, freshman quarterback Randall Futrall found freshman Cooper McNeel for a 43-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to make it 10-0 at the 4:04 mark.

“That play to Cooper McNeel was something we have worked on since the summer,” Wright said. “We knew that his speed would put us near the end zone if not a touchdown, and it proved tonight. Cooper’s speed and ability to catch and play ball showed tonight.”

By the third quarter, following a 5-minute plus drive where the Leake Academy marched down to the 6-yard-line, Starkville Academy’s defense was able to force a turnover on downs and get the ball back for the team. That is when freshman running back Tylor Latham took the handoff and raced to an 80-yard touchdown with 1:46 to go putting the Vols up 17-0.

“God has just blessed him with an athletic ability, and he is always saying coach I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready,” Wright said. “What he does is something that is so special. He was able to play with his other two brothers and that was special for their family. Tylor Latham is a team player, and he cares about his teammates, and he cares about everybody, and that is just something that speaks highly of Tylor.”

It was not until the fourth quarter with about 32 seconds left, that Leake Academy finally scored on a 21-yard touchdown pass to the back left corner of the end zone on a flag route. The Rebels proceeded to convert the two-point conversion to make it a 17-8 game. That would be all the scoring in the game, and even though Starkville Academy was unable to keep the shutout, Wright was still proud of how they played.

“Coach (David) Butler, our defensive coordinator, has had those guys rolling all year,” Wright said. “Even though we did not get the shutout, coach Butler puts those guys in a good position and that is something I am extremely proud of.”

Leake Academy had several penalties including a holding call that wiped out a what would have been 51-yard touchdown that might have made the game a little closer at the end. Instead the penalty kept it from scoring.