Starkville Academy head coach Jeff Terrill summed up the Volunteer’s 42-14 loss perfectly when he called it “a tale of two halves.”
In the first half, the Vols (0-5, 0-2) kept visiting Jackson Academy (5-0, 2-0) in check, knotting a 0-0 tie at the end of the first quarter, and trailing just 14-7 at halftime. However, JA running backs Cristopher Jew and Michael Martin proved to be too much to handle as they wore down the Volunteer defense in the second half.
A Kyle Henson interception and a missed field goal by JA kicker Michael Mordecai kept the first quarter scoreless, but just two minutes into the second quarter Jacob Berry capped a 67-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run for the Raiders. Five minutes later, Benton Green added another score on a 2-yard touchdown run to give JA a 14-point lead.
On the next drive, Terrill decided to use some creative play calling.
With Vols driving at the JA 32-yard line, SA backup quarterback Drew Pellum took a handoff from Henson and found Patrick Jones for a 30-yard completion to put the Volunteers on the JA two yard line. Matt Ward scored on the next play to cut the deficit to 14-7 and swing momentum in the Vols’ favor.
“They we’re just firing up for the run, and we thought something would be there,” Terrill said. “It was just trying to take a shot against a great defense.”
A Ryan McKell interception on the following JA drive put the Volunteers in a position to score again before the half, but time ran out before a Volunteers field goal could be attempted.
Once the second half began, it was all JA. The Raiders scored on every possession but one in the second half, and used their depth to wear down a tired Volunteers defense and cruise to a four-touchdown victory.
Jew ran for 186 yards and a touchdown, while Martin ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
“We just couldn’t stop them in the second half,” Terrill said. “They were too strong and we were too tired.”
The Volunteers’ second and final score came on a 44-yard pass from Henson to Jones in the fourth quarter.
Overall, it was a consistent game for the improved Volunteer offense, which accumulated 16 first downs and 260 total yards (133 rushing, 127 passing.)
Jones had two receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, while McKell caught four passes for 53 yards. Ward and Henson both lead the rushing attack with 32 yards rushing each.
Terrill was pleased with his team’s effort against the defending state champions, and thinks it is a game the team can build off of.
“Some of the issues in the second half are just fundamentals,” Terrill said. “Just wrong angles, not using hands. What pleases you is that overall, they gave a good effort and did not back down to the defending champions. They came out and fought. From there, you can build and continue to get better.”
The Volunteers will look for their first win of the season next week when they host Winston Academy for their Homecoming game.