Starkville Academy looks to improve more with next challenge

The Starkville Academy defense hits Indianola Academy quarterback Will Davis in last season's Class AAA State championship game.

Staff Writer

There may not be a state championship on the line when the Starkville Academy Volunteers host the Indianola Academy Colonels Friday night.

That doesn’t mean the game won’t be an important one.

Being able to play teams like Indianola Academy, along with French Camp and Lamar School before that, gets the Vols ready for what’s to come in the District 2-AAA schedule.

As Starkville Academy head coach Chase Nicholson looks at it, this is the third week of the season and the Colonels just happen to be the opponent standing in the way of the Vols.

“It wouldn’t matter who rolled in here,” Nicholson said. “We would have the same mentality. We’ve got to win because we want to win. We’re not looking make or break. We’re just trying to get better. We’re looking to go out there, compete and get better.

“We are fortunate to play an opponent like Indianola that’s testing us early. Our goal of course is be stronger by the time we get to district and playing the level of competition we feel in the first five games gets us ready for that.”

Starkville Academy and Indianola Academy met twice last season with the Colonels taking the regular season meeting 35-21 in Indianola and the Vols achieving a 21-14 overtime win in Jackson to claim the state title.

Indianola Academy will now be making the trip to Starkville and Nicholson said it’s the first time in his 10 years of being with the Vols that the Colonels have visited J.E. Logan Field.

After the two encounters of last season, Nicholson expects another highly-contested outing between the two programs. He’s glad it’s at home.

“It should be a four-quarter war,” Nicholson said. “It will be a fun game and fun atmosphere. It’s always fun to play at home in front of a home crowd. Any time you play at home, it’s an advantage. That’s why it’s a home-field advantage. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t have the advantage at home.”

The home field has already paid off for one victory for the Vols in a 25-0 shutout of the Panthers last week. In week one, Starkville Academy edged Lamar School on the road 21-20.

Nicholson likes the wins, but it’s the lessons learned while having that success that matters most.

“Wins are always fun, but it’s what we’ve been able to take away from each win going into the next week of practice and things like that,” Nicholson said. “There are plenty of things to work on. Each game has given us new challenges to work on in practice and successes.”

Taylor Arnold had put back-to-back quality games together at running back for the Vols and has 44 carries for 242 yards and one touchdown.

Garrett Lewis has completed 19-of-33 pass attempts for 251 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, while Nason Heflin has 116 yards receiving and a pair of scores.

Defensively for Starkville Academy, Taylor Ray had 16 total tackles.

Just like the Vols, the Colonels have started the season off 2-0 with victories over Pillow Academy 34-12 and St. Joseph 42-14.

Indianola Academy is a strong team with veteran leadership starting with senior quarterback Will Davis.

“(It’s a) good team with a lot of different threats,” Starkville Academy defensive coordinator Brad Butler said. “They can run it, can throw it and have got good receivers so it’s a big challenge for us and we’re excited about it.”

The game between two of the top five private schools programs in The Associated Press prep poll will begin at 7 p.m.