St. Andrews plays Starkville Academy with a young team
In St. Andrews head football coach J.J. Plummer's career, he says he's never faced a challenge quite like the one he's undertaking in 2011.
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As Starkville Academy's season-opening opponent, Plummer's Saints come to Starkville for Friday night's 7:30 p.m. affair with virtually a new team from the unit that finished 5-6 overall last year.
St. Andrews lost nine starters on each side of the ball from last season's club, setting the stage for a host of newcomers to step in and get their first true taste of high school football action this year.
With that, Plummer says his group is essentially in rebuilding mode.
"We've got a tremendous coaching staff and we're coaching these kids to the best of our abilities," said Plummer. "But when you're young, you're young, and you just can't make miracles in a day. We've got a lot of growing up to do."
Plummer hopes the first steps in that process are taken against the Volunteers, however he knows it won't be easy.
Facing a Starkville Academy team that is full of momentum after taking positive strides towards rebuilding their own program a year ago, Plummer feels the Vols possess tools that may make life difficult for the Saints.
"We know Starkville Academy is going to be one of the best teams we'll be seeing all year," said Plummer. "I think so much of (Starkville Academy head coach) Jeff Terrill. He's a tremendous football coach and I know he's got a great coaching staff. We know they're going to be well-coached.
"There's no doubt (Starkville Academy) is going to be a lot bigger and stronger than us, so our main thing is just to see these St. Andrews kids grow and improve."
While inexperience penetrates Plummer's team, the Saints' cupboard isn't completely bare.
St. Andrews does return a pair of starters on its offensive line in the form of senior guards David Dulske and Matt Warren.
In the backfield, St. Andrews will look to senior running back Jaren Darby for leadership.
Yet the fact remains that there aren't many Saints who are proven.
Plummer says his team understands their current situation and is adopting a realistic approach to this season.
"We're relaying to (the team) that there's no need of talk of any playoffs or any talk of going out and having a winning season," said Plummer. "We're just taking the win-loss thing out of the picture and just letting this team grow and improve. Whatever happens on the field happens on the field."
With that mindset, Plummer hopes some of the pressure is relieved off of his young team, and thus, just maybe the Saints will surprise a few teams this year.
"You never know," said Plummer. "That's why you play on Friday nights."