Starkville Academy football

CJ Jackson

NATCHEZ – It was another come-from-behind effort for the road warriors of Starkville Academy on Friday night.

After trailing 7-0 early in the game, CJ Jackson scored a pair of second-half touchdowns and the defense shut out a tough Adams County Christian offense for the final three quarters and the Volunteers won a 20-15 decision to knock the defending AAA State champion Rebels from the playoffs.

It is the third-straight road triumph for Starkville Academy as it also defeated Magnolia Heights School in the first round 35-30 and Lamar School 24-22 in the second round last week.

The reward for the Vols will be a date in the AAAAA State championship game next Friday. This will be the second time in three years that coach Chase Nicholson’s Vols have played for a state title.

“I’m awful excited for them,” Nicholson said. “This senior bunch were sophomores when we played in 2017 and won it. Here they are again twice in three years and now they get a chance to go out there and try to win another state championship.”

With the Vols trailing 7-0 in the third quarter against Adams Christian, Jackson scored his first touchdown on a 30-yard run with 8:04 remaining. The extra point was wide right so Adams County Christian clung on to a 7-6 lead.

Starkville Academy took a 12-7 advantage with 4:26 left in the game when quarterback Randall Futral faked a give to Jackson and scored on an 8-yard quarterback keeper. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful.

After Ben Brown intercepted a pass to put the Vols back in business, Jackson scored his second touchdown at the 3:14 mark of the fourth quarter. With a two-point conversion pass from Futral to Dylan Starke, Starkville Academy held a 20-7 lead.

The Rebels were able to get a bit closer in the closing moment with a touchdown and two-point conversion run by D.J. Knight, but they could not recover the following onside kick attempt and the Vols then ran out the clock.

“Our guys continue to persevere, fight through the adversity and never quit,” Nicholsons said. “It’s a very interesting bunch. They work hard, each week they try to get better and they listen to us. Even though they may not be the most athletic or most talented team ever, they refuse to quit and refuse to lose time and time again. They are a great bunch of guys and that’s on them. It’s them believing in each other. It’s a lot of fun to watch them grow.”

The Vols, who improved to 9-4, will play Golden Triangle rival Heritage Academy for the state championship in Jackson. The two schools met in a state title matchup in 2005.

The Patriots defeated Pillow Academy 47-14 on Friday night.

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