NO. 4 STARKVILLE
13-1 IN 2014
Coach: Ricky Woods (204-40 in 18 seasons, 1st at Starkville)
Buzz: Starkville is coming off an undefeated regular season and 6A semifinalist finish in 2014. Ricky Woods, who led Ackerman and South Panola to multiple championships, takes over for Jamie Mitchell and inherits a program well on its way to becoming a powerhouse. The biggest questions lie on offense. The Yellowjackets’ high-powered attack averaged more than 407 yards per game last season and dismantled its opponents with a loaded core of skill players. Montario Montgomery takes over for Brady Davis at quarterback and four-star wide-out A.J. Brown will lead the charge after a monster junior season. Woods said the Yellowjackets are in the process of installing a new offense that should look similar to last year’s scheme. There are fewer questions defensively with longtime Yellowjackets defensive coordinator Brooks Oakley continuing to develop one of the most lethal fronts in the state. Starkville returns a stacked defensive line and strong group of linebackers and defensive backs that forced five shutouts last season.
Who’s back: 4 starters on offense, 6 on defense
PLAYERS TO WATCH
A.J. Brown, WR, Sr: The athletic 6-foot-1, 220 pound receiver averaged 19.6 yards per catch in 2014. Brown topped 1,000 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns as a junior. With Ralph Leonard gone, the four-star prospect becomes Montgomery’s No. 1 target.
Kobe Jones, DL/OL, Sr: The high-motor lineman is a monster on both sides of the ball. Jones anchored an offensive line that allowed the Yellowjackets to accumulate 245.8 passing yards per game. He also totaled 20 tackles, six for loss, and forced one fumble last season.
Maleke Bell, DE, Sr: Bell enters his fourth season on varsity after recording 31 tackles, 13 for loss, two sacks, two blocked field goals, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He’s quick off the edge, moves well for his size and fires off the ball low.
Willie Gay, LB, Jr: The 6-foot-1, 205-pound outside linebacker is a strong run stopper who racked up 33 tackles (20 solo) and two interceptions for 60 yards.
Nov. 6 vs. Clinton
This game could decide the winner of Region 2. Last year’s matchup was a shootout where both teams combined to tally more than 1,000 yards of offense. After being outscored 26-21 in the third quarter, Starkville threw the final punch and carried on to a 56-46 victory and the region title.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Starkville pitched five shutouts in 2014. The Yellowjackets’ stout defense held its opponents to an average of 12.4 points per game.
WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?
“They have high expectations for themselves and I have high expectations for them. We just have to put it all together and live up to it now. Winning breeds winning.” — Ricky Woods, Starkville head coach
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.