Photos by Chris Todd
Story by Robert Wilson

Sponsored by – Jackson Academy – Party City and 4 Top Hospitality

Lance Pogue has been known for having outstanding defenses during his coaching career so Friday night’s 37-0 victory for his Jackson Academy Raiders over Starkville Academy in the season opener for both teams was especially satisfying.

​“It was a great defensive effort by our guys,” Pogue said. “It was a good night. To start off the season with a shutout is a great feeling.”

​JA limited Starkville to 110 total yards, 67 rushing and 43 passing, had eight tackles for loss and five sacks. Starkville crossed midfield only once and didn’t get past JA’s 30-yard line. Starkville only completed 5 of 21 passes. 

​And that’s with the Raiders playing without one of their best players, senior wide receiver-defensive back and Mississippi State commitment Dakota Jordan, a Canton Academy transfer who is in San Diego to play in the Perfect Game All-American Baseball Classic this weekend.

​Senior defensive end Max Walenta led JA with seven tackles and two sacks. Senior linebacker Banks Whittington and junior linebacker Adams Kennedy had five tackles each. Kennedy sacked Starkville quarterback Randall Futral for a safety for JA’s first score in the first quarter. Defensivelineman Ethan Archie, a 5-foot-10, 235-pound senior, bottled up the middle and had two tackles for loss. Six players had at least one tackle for loss. Senior strong safeties Porter Harrell and Davis Lee and sophomore cornerback Denym Mitchell had one interception each. 

In addition, JA senior punter-kicker Scott Swalley – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Elite Eleven – kept Starkville pinned deep in its own territory. Starkville had only 7 yards on kickoff returns and Swalley averaged 36 yards on five punts without a return.

​It was the third shutout in Pogue’s second year as head coach at JA. The Raiders blanked Northeast Lauderdale 43-0 and Pelahatchie 41-0 last season. Strong defensive efforts like Friday are nothing new for Pogue, who won five state championships and one national title in 10 seasons at MHSAA Class 6A South Panola. Pogue’s defenses allowed only 12.6 points during that 10-year period when he had a 126-17 record, including only 7.8 points when South Panola went 15-0 and won a national title.

​“We have some good speed on the defensive side of the ball, especially in our secondary,” said Pogue, who won his 221st game in his 23rd season. “Porter is a mainstay and (senior defensive back) Trey Adams had a good game. Max is a three-year starter and (J.T.) Thigpen and Archie played well, too. It was a quality defensive effort.” 

​The offense played well, too, totaling 460 yards. Pogue used two quarterbacks, and both were effective. Junior Clayton White started and completed 9 of 16 passes for 77 yards and one touchdown, a 32-yarder to Adams. Senior Tate Collins, a transfer from Madison Central, completed 3 of 3 passes for 97 yards and two TDs, a 20-yarder to Thigpen and a 75-yarder to C.J. Banks. Collins also ran 10 times for 148 yards, including an85-yard TD. Senior running back Marcus Harris had 114 yards on 13 carries and one TD.