Games that matter: Starkville Academy opens District 2-AAA slate at rival Winston Academy

Starkville Academy will line up against Winston Academy again Friday night.

Staff Writer

What has happened in the first five games of the season doesn’t help the Starkville Academy Volunteers now.

Starkville Academy stands 5-0 so far coming off a Class AAA State championship season, but when it comes to starting the District 2-AAA schedule Friday night at Winston Academy, the road to the 2019 postseason begins and the Vols know there is no margin for error.

“The success we’ve had to this point is great and we are happy where we are,” Starkville Academy head coach Chase Nicholson said. “Anytime you can be sitting here at 5-0, that’s fantastic. It’s what these guys have worked to do and what these guys have been working through with dedication.

“We’re excited about that, but it means nothing. This week we are 0-0. This week is what matters is because we have to win. That’s the thing about district games. It’s a have-to-win situation week in and week out. Here we are with our back to the wall in a must-win or we’ll have problems and puts us behind the eight ball.”

Nicholson knows there is nothing that the Winston Academy Patriots would like better than to upset the apple cart of his Vols.
 Starting with a rival that’s only 30 miles down Highway 25 will be tougher than any other district game for Starkville Academy this season, but it’s one the Vols embrace.

“We have a challenge in front of us, but that’s every week,” Nicholson said. “That’s what we want. We want challenges. That’s why we are playing the way that we are and why we have the expectations that we do.”
Nicholson said his players have enjoyed some of the best practices this week that they’ve had all season.

Starkville Academy junior wide receiver Ben Brown said it’s a matter of practicing like you want to play.

“I’m pretty pleased with the way our practices have been,” Brown said. “With the way we’ve executed in practice and in games, it shows up.”

One Vol that has shown up in every game has been running back Taylor Arnold. The OCH Regional Medical Center/Starkville Daily News Athlete of the Week has 106 carries for 583 yards rushing and seven touchdowns.

Quarterback Garrett Lewis has managed the offense well for the Vols by completing 44-of-95 pass attempts for 582 yards and three touchdowns, while Nason Heflin leads the team with 166 yards receiving.
Brown likes the production of the offense, but said now is not the time to let off the gas pedal.

“The o-line has to continue to block well, Garrett has to continue to throw well, so we can make connections on the field mentally and physically play by play,”  Brown said.

For the Starkville Academy defense, Willie Latham III has 43 tackles, Taylor Ray adds 42 tackles and Campbell Spivey contributes 41 tackles. Will Miller has five sacks and Howell Archer has a pair of interceptions.

The Vols do not want to lose focus when it comes to the district opener in Louisville Friday night.

Brown knows the way Starkville Academy approaches the game at Winston Academy could set the tone for the remainder of the district schedule.

“It determines our mindset for the rest of the season,” Brown said.