Volunteers cruise to victory, earn another shutout

The Starkville Academy defense wraps up East Webster ball carrier Conner Shurden (33).

Staff Writer

A cannon fired off from the south end zone before the East Webster Wolverines started their game Friday night.

Unfortunately for the Wolverines that was the only thing that came out firing for them in the game as the Starkville Academy Volunteers cruised to a 51-0 victory.

“Just offensively finding any success,” East Webster coach Ron Price said. “Starkville Academy has been good defensively all year. Take nothing away from Starkville Academy – great game plan and great football team.”
The Vols on the other hand jumped out to a 5-0 lead after kicking a field goal and forcing a safety after a pooch kick kickoff was caught inside the 10 by the Wolverines.

“Special teams is something we take pride in, each and every week,” Starkville Academy head coach Chase Nicholson said. “We try very very hard to get better at it every week. It’s huge. It’s big, it’s always extra points when we get stuff like that.”

The Vols again forced a safety in the third quarter after they blocked a punt and it went flying out the back of the end zone. Starkville Academy went up 24-0 at that point.

Nicholson said plays like that are expected from the special teams.

“It is not unexpected," Nicholson said. "We expect those plays. In fact, when we don’t have big special teams plays, we are disappointed. Those things are always huge to help out our offense.”

Taylor Arnold scored a touchdown on a kickoff return to make it 31-0 following the safety. He described the feeling as he caught the ball and let his blockers create the hole.

“The second one I caught it a little far back and was able to see the blocks develop,” Arnold said. “There was just a big hole for me and I just did the easy part. I just ran it. I had to avoid one last dude and tight roped the sideline and got in.”

Starkville Academy kept East Webster pinned back in its own half of the field for much of the game.

Nicholson gave credit to his defense and special teams for the field position wins.

“A lot of that is special teams, but the big thing is the defense kept them down there,” Nicholson said. “There is percentages or statistics of how far you go down the field when you are pinned like that. Inside the 10, it’s like a 90 percent chance you are going to punt or something like that.”

The Wolverines felt the effects of the poor field position, as Price mentioned a key interception at the 1-yard line that lead to the pick six by Howell Archer of the Vols to make it a 12-0 game at the time.

“Just terrible field position," Price said. "We could never get field position. We got a big interception early in the game and got pinned inside the 1. The field positioning killed us all night. We were in very difficult circumstances the whole entire game, and they were putting pressure on us.”

Price said that the Starkville Academy defense was so hard to beat because the Vols had a very strong senior leadership and knew what they were doing.

“They were very senior-oriented on defense,” Price said. “They are very well-coached, they know what to do, (and) they believe in what they do. They are the defending state champions for a reason.”

The Starkville Academy defense had a fumble recovery in the end zone to make it 38-0 and Sam Clark had a pick six as well to make it 45-0. One of the players on the Vols' defense who contributed was Taylor Ray, a junior defensive end, who said he and the defense just did the best jobs it could.

“I feel like the whole defense just did a good job,” Ray said. “I feel like I tried to do my job when I could, (and) made plays when they came to me. It was just a surreal defensive game (Friday night).”
Despite the big win, Nicholson found some small things he hopes Starkville Academy will improve on as the season continues.

“We let go of a few big plays out there,” Nicholson said. “We didn’t connect on some wide open passes, penalties here and there are things that just kill an offense.”

The Vols improved to 4-0 for the year and host homecoming next week against Magnolia Heights, while East Webster (1-3) travels to Strayhorn.