OCH Regional Medical Center Athlete of the Week: Zach Edwards

Zach Edwards

Staff Writer

It’s playoff football which means everyone takes their game to the next level at this point.

Starkville’s Zach Edwards takes that principle to heart as much as anyone as he was as big a reason for the success last Friday as anyone else. The senior linebacker and his defense had trouble on the opening possession with South Panola’s Janari Dean who burst through for a 61-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.

By halftime, Dean had 175 yards on 19 carries and was running wild on the Yellow Jacket defense, then Edwards and company tightened up. Dean and the Tigers wouldn’t cross the 50 the rest of the game and Edwards produced a season-high 11 tackles with four tackles for loss and a sack.

The performance earned him the OCH Regional Medical Center/Starkville Daily News Athlete of the Week honors.  

“I thought one of the main things that Zach brought on Friday was just energy and a different type of physicality," SHS head coach Chris Jones said. "He was out there putting his nose in there and mixing it up with offensive linemen, being physical. We’ve got a bunch of guys that haven’t been in the moment so Zach, Jalil (Clemons) and (Jaylan Ware) did what they were supposed to do.”

Edwards and the dangerous Starkville defensive front knew early that they were going to have to make some adjustments. Dean was able to find some holes in which to run but the Jackets weren’t up for letting that continue the rest of the way.

Pride kicked in for Edwards who saw what the problem was and he fixed it.

“They were out-flanking us and pinning me in,” Edwards said of the early success. “All I had to do was get outside and it was OK after that. Our defense is the best defense in the state. We’ll bend but we’ll never break.”
It’s been a steady senior season for Edwards who was chosen as one of three Starkville players to make the Mississippi roster for the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star game. The linebacker is coming off a 125-tackle season as a junior and, though his numbers are down from that this year, he’s improved in many ways.

Edwards is at 79 tackles this year with 26 tackles for loss and nine sacks. The adjustment to the position from being a defensive linemen in year’s past has been noticeable.

“I think a lot of it has to do with it being his second year playing linebacker,” Jones said. “He had to re-train his eyes and see things differently. Now he gets it and knows what to look for and that’s helped him become a better player this year. He doesn’t have amazing numbers, but he’s only played a handful of games with four quarters. He’s one of the better players in the state of Mississippi.”