By JOEL COLEMAN
The Starkville Academy junior varsity football team was figuratively kicked in the gut Thursday night as they began a home contest against Presbyterian Christian.
It wasn't long before the Bobcats learned that the Volunteers kick back.
After surrendering a touchdown just moments after the game got underway, SA bounced back to claim a 27-13 win over PCS.
"The coaches teach us in practice, when adversity hits you in the mouth, you've got to stand up and hit back," said Vols running back/linebacker Drew Harrell. "After that first play when (PCS) scored their touchdown, we just had to hit back."
Both Hunter Peeples and Houston Clark had short-yardage rushing touchdowns in the first half for Starkville Academy to help the Vols come from behind to mount a 14-13 advantage by halftime.
Early in the third quarter, SA extended its lead.
On a third-down play, Clark found John McReynolds on a screen that turned into a 59-yard score to put the Vols up 20-13 after a failed extra point.
That score held until late in the fourth quarter when Harrell helped SA put PCS away.
With the Bobcats facing a fourth-and-long on the Vols' 45-yard line, a charging Harrell pressured the PCS quarterback to force an incompletion and a turnover on downs.
On SA's ensuing drive, Harrell then broke lose for a 52-yard touchdown run to cap the night's scoring.
Harrell finished the game with 139 yards rushing on 19 attempts and his fourth-quarter score.
"In practice, I've been working on trying to run more downhill," said Harrell. "I tried my best to do that and just do what I had to do."
While it was Harrell who piled up the big numbers against PCS, SA head coach Chad Peterson said it wouldn't have been possible if not for the play of the Vols offensive front.
"You can't say enough about our offensive line," said Peterson. "Earl Sloan, Houston Massey, Harper Arnold, Jonathan Black, Alex Bedwell and our tight end, Josh Crittenden, they really just controlled everything. We were just able to run the ball right down (PCS's) throat. That says a lot about those guys."
The Vols finished the night with 257 of their 284 total yards coming by way of the running attack behind the blocking of Sloan, Massey, Arnold, Black, Bedwell and Crittenden.
Such success on the ground was the primary reason the Vols now sit at 2-0 overall for the season.
Peterson is hoping the wins can keep coming for his club as the season rolls on.
"It's time all these guys start learning how to win," said Peterson. "This right here, this is another step in that direction."
7th Grade game
Presbyterian Christian 12,
Starkville Academy 8
Trailing 8-6, PCS was able to score a touchdown late in the second half to squeak past SA.
Even in a back-and-forth game that ended in defeat, Vols head coach Casey Orr said he was impressed with his team.
"I'm very proud and pleased with the way these boys played," said Orr. "They left it all out on the field and played hard.
"They stuffed (PCS) for most of the game, but just got hurt by two long pass plays. That was the difference in the game. Outside that, our boys really held their own."