By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville High School coach Jamie Mitchell believes that Callaway is capable of playing good football.
That's why he enters tonight's Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 game between the two teams with a great deal of concern. The Yellowjackets and Chargers meet at 7 p.m. in Starkville.
It's Senior Night, Band Night and Breast Cancer Awareness Night at SHS. The first 100 people that enter the gate will receive pink wrist bands for breast cancer awareness.
Mitchell has issued a warning about how dangerous Callaway can be despite records of 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the region.
"I'm as worried about Callaway as any football team we've played in our division," Mitchell said. "They are extremely well-coached and have very good players. It's a mystery to me in some sense as to why they are not contending, but on the other hand, their turnovers are just killing them. They threw five interceptions and had two fumbles against Ridgeland and only lost 21-14 and that's with seven turnovers. I know Coach (Daryl) Jones well. You watch them on film and they stick with what they believe in."
With 6-foot-5, 290-pound right tackle Jocquell Johnson, 6-foot-4, 290-pound right guard Rodrick Taylor and other talented players, Mitchell said the Chargers can make things difficult for the Jackets.
"It's just puzzling because the pieces are there for them," Mitchell said. "They've got athletic kids and their right tackle is picked to play in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game. He is hands down the best offensive lineman I've seen this year. Their right guard is going to be a big-time recruit. Those two guys are two of the best offensive linemen on any team and they've got other good players.
"I know they have some young people in places, but still they are certainly a formidable opponent."
At 7-2 overall and 5-0 in the region, SHS has already qualified for the playoffs and is in the driver's seat to capture the region championship.
The Jackets have two challenges left in the regular season to try and accomplish that feat with Callaway tonight and Neshoba Central in Philadelphia next week.
"Obviously, we'd like to get to that one next week undefeated (in the region)," Mitchell said. "If we can do that, we'll have all of the marbles on the table. Every division game counts exactly the same so the value of this is just as valuable as the Ridgeland game or Provine game.
"If you win the division, you end up playing a No. 4 seed and that's so big. It certainly should be a team you are better than in the first round, but it doesn't always work out that way. You do play them at home. There's so much riding on these last two games."
Starkville looks for good play out of its junior quarterback Gabe Myles, who has completed 71-of-147 pass attempts for 12 touchdowns. He is also the leading rusher with 118 carries for 437 yards and four scores.
Mitchell was encouraged that fullback Stanley Higgins (elbow) and offensive lineman Jawon Johnson (concussion) were well enough to play last week and have practiced so far this week.
There's still a question mark surrounding the health of skilled player Ladorious Pittman.
"We thought we were going to get him back, but he's still hobbled by some shin splints or stress fracture," Mitchell said. "We've had x-rays and MRIs done, but still uncertain what's going on there. He could be such a big piece for us offensively.
"We're just trying to stay healthy throughout the week and still get better which is an obstacle course in itself. You want contact and want good practice, but you want to stay healthy too."