It's a bit ironic that Starkville Academy begins the 2010 high school football season tonight at Ackerman.
When the Volunteers welcomed Jeff Terrill as the their new head coach after last year's 0-11 season, they did so to start paving a road back to prominence.
Meanwhile, Adam Dillinger's Indians are already there, having just played for a Class 2A state title a little over eight months ago.
"We come into this game with much respect for the Ackerman football program," said Terrill. "Their coach is straight quality and we certainly understand what we're facing."
Terrill's admiration for the Indians could well be a result of the name Ackerman has built for itself through the years, or it could be due to knowledge of last year's result, a 55-2 Ackerman win on SA's home turf.
It's easy to think that a lopsided result such as last year's would go a long way towards motivating the Vols tonight, but Terrill insists tonight isn't about getting revenge. It's about taking the first step towards restoring SA's own football tradition.
"(The team's attitude) doesn't have anything to do with Ackerman," said Terrill. "It has to do with Starkville Academy. Hopefully, the guys want to go out and show that they can compete at a higher level than they did last year, but it really wouldn't matter if we were playing Ackerman or Lamar or any other team. It's just a matter of us, as a group of young men, pulling together and learning how to compete."
Meanwhile, 22 miles down Highway 12, the Indians would love for tonight's game to be the start of an encore season from a year ago. However, Dillinger understands that last year's 15-1 campaign is in the past and knows SA enters much-improved.
"If you had a good year last year, you've got to come back down to earth, and if you had a bad year, you have to pick yourself up, dust off, and start all over again," said Dillinger. "Our guys understand it's a new year and (SA) is a much better ball team than they were a year ago. We're not quite to that point yet, just because we're so young."
Ackerman's youth provides several questions heading into tonight's game, questions that Dillinger hopes start getting answered over the next several weeks.
"We've just got a lot of guys that haven't played a lot of snaps," said Dillinger. "That's our main concern going in. But the only way to gain experience is to get some, and we're going to try to go out there and do that these next few weeks before division games start."
Tonight's game was originally scheduled for Friday, but was moved up to help Starkville fans avoid slow traffic through the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis.
Terrill actually thinks pushing the season opener up a day will benefit both teams in the long run.
"One of the hardest games to prepare for is the second game," said Terrill. "You've got all summer to prepare for that first opponent, but that second week, it seems like a quick turnaround. So I think Ackerman and us both will be glad we played (today) as far as our preparation as we move on to game number two."
Tonight's game kicks off at 7:30 p.m.