By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville High School has been out of school the last couple of days observing its fall break.
Jamie Mitchell, the head football coach of the Yellowjackets, said tonight isn't the time for his team to take a break on the field.
Not with an important Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 game set for 7 p.m. in Yazoo City.
The potential distraction of not having school has given Mitchell a cause for concern.
"It's a different week for our kids and I'm worried about that," Mitchell said. "When you change routine, sometimes kids don't handle it really well. We're hoping to continue our momentum that we've got going."
Starkville can't afford any slip-ups if it's to maintain its standing in the region. The Jackets, who have an overall record of 6-2, are tied for first in the region with Neshoba Central with 4-0 marks.
Ridgeland at 3-1, Yazoo City at 2-2 and Provine at 2-2 are within striking distance of Starkville with three regular season games remaining.
"It's still going to take some shaking out before we know what's going on," Mitchell said. "Of course, we've got to go to Yazoo City and we've struggled on the road all year long. We were able to find a way to win one in Ridgeland.
If the rest of the Jackets share the same opinion that junior wide receiver Jimmy Saulsberry does, then Mitchell doesn't have much to worry about.
Saulsberry doesn't want to be edged out of the playoff picture like Starkville was last year.
"This is the time," Saulsberry said. "We've been waiting for this since last year when we were close and didn't make the playoffs. We were one game short.
"We had a little talk about what can we do to be better and practice better every week. We may be 4-0, but we're not ready yet."
Starkville's mistakes have hampered it at times this season.
The Jackets have averaged 7.3 penalties for 50.6 yards per game and have turned the football over 22 times.
Mitchell doesn't like the fact that 17 of those turnovers were lost fumbles, especially on quarterback-center exchanges.
"It's one of those deals that has gotten mental with us," Mitchell said. "We're playing a little tentative offensively and not trying to make mistakes instead of making plays. We fumbled the exchange two or three times (against Canton). It's frustrating for us and things we're not doing in practice. We haven't fumbled a snap in practice and we've cut the procedure penalties down a lot. We should not be fumbling snaps at this point of the year. There's no excuse in that."
Another mounting problem for SHS is injuries.
Sophomore defensive back Ladorious Pittman has a leg stress fracture, junior fullback Stanley Higgins has a hyperextended elbow and junior offensive lineman Juwon Johnson has a concussion.
Mitchell hopes to have Pittman back if the Jackets make the playoffs, while the status of Higgins and Johnson is day-to-day.
"We've got some question marks," Mitchell said. "We just hope to get some of these guys well enough to get them on the field."