By JOEL COLEMAN
Having suffered through losing season after losing season, Starkville Academy shook a proverbial monkey off its back last week that had been clinging for the last several years.
With a win over Copiah Academy, the Volunteers (6-1 overall, 2-1 in conference play) cemented their status as the school's first winning football team since 2005.
SA's pride in knowing it can finish this season with no worse than a .500 winning percentage carries them into tonight's 7 p.m. home game against Parklane.
"Getting ready for Copiah (last week), we just kept telling the seniors that no matter what happened after that, they were going to be winners," said Starkville Academy head coach Jeff Terrill. "Where we came from, that was and is a great motivating tool for us."
Against Parklane (5-2 overall, 1-1 in conference play), Terrill and his Vols will try to make sure that there's still plenty more winning in store for Starkville Academy.
For that to happen, SA will once again lean upon a rushing attack that has helped the Vols put up more than 30 points per game on average this season.
While success on the ground hasn't been uncommon for the Vols the past two seasons, Terrill says he's been pleasantly surprised at how that success has helped SA put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard this year.
"I think where we're surprised at this point is the number of points that we have scored," said Terrill. "We're not really geared to go out thinking we're going to score 30 or 40 points a game. It might sound funny for a coach to say that's not really our philosophy, but we're completely opposite from what you turn on the TV and watch. On TV, you're watching offenses that see how wide they can spread the field and how fast can they run a play.
"We're more of a slow it down, use the 25-second clock, run the football and play good defense team. We think that's our winning formula."
It's an equation that the Starkville Academy players have bought into.
Using their their triple-option offense, the Vols have several players who have compiled big numbers to this point.
Ryan Mann has compiled 737 yards on the ground and found the end zone 11 times.
Colby Runnels has tallied 538 rushing yards with seven scores.
Quarterback Drew Pellum has rushed for 466 yards, passed for 282 more and accounted for nine total touchdowns.
"What we do, we don't disguise it or hide it," said Terrill. "We're a triple-option football team and it starts with the fullback. Sometimes we start it off slow, but except against Jackson Prep, we've been able to establish the fullback. I think that's all largely due to our offensive line play.
"(The running game) has certainly been a good thing for us and fits the talent of our kids."
Fortunately for Terrill, his team boasts more than just a bruising offense.
SA's defense is allowing, on average, fewer than 12 points per game this season.
The Vols defense will be put to the test tonight however against a powerful Parklane offense.
The Pioneers, who Starkville Academy has played in recent years, have actually switched offensive styles from previous seasons.
While head coach Bo Milton and company were formerly a spread team, Parklane has now adjusted to more of a pro-style offense.
In developing a defensive gameplan, Terrill says it's traditionally easier to scheme for teams that rely heavily on the I-formation and the like as opposed to spread offenses.
Yet a solid gameplan doesn't always equate to success.
"It just depends on how you match up," said Terrill. "An I-pro is a little bit easier on a board to line up against, but that doesn't mean it's going to be that way on the field.
"Each system provides its own unique problems. There's no offensive system that is perfect and there's no defensive system that doesn't have weaknesses.
"(Parklane) will certainly provide their own unique set of problems because they do what they do well."