Academy friendly: Volunteers, Panthers meet for sixth time

Starkville Academy and French Camp Academy meet on the football field Friday night for the sixth time.

Staff Writer

Respect exists on both sides when the Starkville Academy Volunteers and French Camp Panthers meet on the football field.

A friendly rivalry has developed over the years between the two schools that are located less than one hour apart in neighboring counties.

The Vols and Panthers meet for the sixth time Friday night and it’s a series that’s very important to Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson.

“Being that close, a lot of our kids know their kids,” Nicholson said. “We’ve had kids leave here and go there because it was closer and some would come from there to here. I recently learned that one of our teacher’s grandson actually plays at French Camp. It’s so close that there’s going to be a tie there. I think it’s a great relationship we’ve had great games.”

French Camp coach Nathan Wright agrees with Nicholson's assessment that there is a good relationship between the programs and one he hopes will “keep going for a while.”

Wright likes the way Nicholson and the Vols take care of their business.

“Chase has a veteran coaching staff,” Wright said. “There is no doubt they are a fun team to watch play and we can learn a lot by watching them.”

Starkville Academy, the defending Class AAA State champions, got the season started last week by defeating Lamar School, another state champ from last year.

It wasn’t easy for the Vols as they escaped Meridian with a 21-20 victory.

“It was tremendous effort from all over the place,” Nicholson said. “That’s what you ask for and what you want. I hope that this game can set up what our season can be like. Adversity is going to come week in and week out. How are we going to respond to it week in and week out? Hopefully what they showed every Friday night will be what we can do every Friday night.”

The Panthers also got off to a good start with a 45-18 win over Winona Christian.

In that game, French Camp quarterback Holman Edwards threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more.

Nicholson said Edwards is a veteran signal caller who knows his way around a football field.

“He’s been a good athlete and a good quarterback,” Nicholson said of Edwards “When you’ve been doing it that long, you can’t help but be good. Anytime you have a returning quarterback as a senior who has that much experience, offensively they are going to be tough.”

Starkville Academy doesn’t plan to take the Panthers for granted.

After putting up 45 points in the first game, French Camp has the Vols’ attention.

“With the athletic ability they have, they are always going to play hard,” Starkville Academy running back Taylor Arnold said. “I’m looking forward to the next game.”

Arnold looks to build on his performance against Lamar. He had 128 yards on 24 carries.

It was also a good outing for quarterback Garrett Lewis, who had nine completions for 105 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Nason Heflin and Howell Archer had two catches for 38 yards and one touchdown each.

Defensively for Starkville Academy, Matt Miller had 12 tackles, Taylor Ray added 11 tackles, and Campbell Spivey and Archer contributed 10 tackles each. Will Miller had three sacks.

Friday night’s kickoff from J.E. Logan Field is 7 p.m and Nicholson is anxious to see how his team responds for the home opener..

“It’s always good to play in front of the home crowd,” Nicholson said. “It’s exciting for these guys to be out there in front of their family and friends. It also because of the energy and excitement that our fans bring to a home game.”