By DANNY P. SMITH
JACKSON - Mississippi High School Activities Association executive director Don Hinton opened the State Championship press conference Monday morning welcoming each team present and making sure it understood that it was a big deal getting to this point.
Hinton said it was a special accomplishment to be one of 12 teams to reach state championship games in each of the six classifications in Mississippi.
Starkville High School is one of those programs representing Class 5A and will take on Picayune Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Yellowjackets have a record of 12-2 and won games against Hernando 42-28, West Point 20-14 and Ridgeland 28-7 to reach the title game.
Henley didn't have to convince SHS football coach Jamie Mitchell about the importance of playing for a state championship.
Mitchell, who began his coaching career 19 years ago as an assistant, took the podium during his portion of the press conference and reflected back through his head-coaching tenure.
After three years at Ripley, two years at Charleston, four years at Olive Branch, four years at Itawamba and in his second year at Starkville, Mitchell realizes getting to Jackson is no easy task.
"When I was a young guy, I had no idea of how hard it was to get here," Mitchell said. "I've been a part of some great teams in the past. We had great teams at Charleston and Olive Branch. You can have a great team and still not get here. You've got to be great, got to be lucky and the breaks have got to go your way. It's next to impossible to get to Jackson and to win when you get here is that much tougher so I cherish every minute of what we're able to do this year and this week is an experience I'll carry with me the rest of my life."
Each head coach from the two schools representing each MHSAA classification spoke briefly at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Monday and introduced the assistant coaches, players and administration who made the trip with them.
Mitchell said the press conference was a good way to kick off championship week.
"It's pretty much what you'd thought it would be," Mitchell said. "It's great for every school here. We're here for Starkville so we're going to make sure we get our two cents worth."
Since the Jackets defeated Ridgeland 28-7 to win the North Class 5A championship, Mitchell hasn't had much sleep.
The combination of anticipation and preparation for the state championship have contributed to Mitchell's lack of relaxation.
"There's so much to do with setting up travel and trying to get a football team ready which is the most important thing," Mitchell said. "There are so many things to get covered and done, but we love the opportunity.
"I guess we'll have a chance to rest after Saturday, but it's everything we thought it would be and then some."