NCA grad helps Starkville win state


It seems like in this day and age that the good guy never wins in the end but I’m here to tell you that I don’t think that’s the case this year.

One of those good guys is Chase Nicholson, who guided Starkville Academy to the Class AAA state championship two weeks ago, beating defending state champion Indianola Academy in overtime with a goal line stand that is the thing that legends are made of.

Nicholson has deep Newton County ties, playing and graduating from Newton County Academy. As a matter of fact, Nicholson got his coaching start at Newton County Academy under Rob Roberts and was his offensive coordinator while still in college.

I spent many a Sunday afternoon on the phone with Nicholson getting stats on last week’s game. Eventually after graduating at Mississippi State, Nicholson caught on at Starkville Academy under Jack French and became a coordinator under Jeff Terrill. When Terrill stepped down, Nicholson was the natural choice to take over and has enjoyed great success in every season, culminating in his first state championship over Indianola, a team that beat them in the regular season.

I tip my hat to Nicholson because he is truly one of the good guys and has done things the right way at Starkville. He’s hired an experienced staff — one is former West Point coach Bubba Davis — and let them coach while leaning on their experience.

It’s always fun to see kids that you knew in high school and college turn into successful adults and I’m glad to call Coach Nicholson a friend of mine.

Another good guy gets another ring

While running errands for my wife on Saturday, I ran into old friend Charles Shaffer, another Newton County Academy graduate.

Shaffer is currently the defensive coordinator at Lamar School, which beat Simpson Academy in overtime to win the Class AAAA-Division II state championship.

Shaffer has been in an out of coaching, working at Roadway for years but is back in coaching with Mac Barnes at Lamar. As I told Shaffer in the middle of Dollar General, he did something we at Leake Academy were not able to do and that’s stop the Simpson Academy veer offense. Not that the same Simpson team scored 70 points on the Leake Academy Rebels this year and we haven’t beaten Simpson in my six years at Leake.

Charles and I spent the better part of 30 minutes talking about how the Raiders did it. I give Shaffer credit for his game plan and congratulate him on another state championship. I’ll be honest that I was a little envious of his championship ring that he kept on flashing in front of me.

My first real encounter with Charles was way back at his days at NCA when he coach a sporty guard named Mike Hurst. He called me early on Saturday morning and wanted to know why The Meridian Star wasn’t covering his team, which was having one of its best seasons in years. Shaffer called me because he went to school with my wife and they remain friends to this day. I wasn’t wild about that call that day but got past it and have come to call Charles a friend of mine.

Final call

The Mississippi High School Activities Association will crown its state championship this upcoming weekend. While there are no teams from our area, there is one that’s very interesting. Winona will take on Taylorsville for the Class 2A state championship. Winona has earned its way to Jackson the last two weeks, beating Scott Central — much to everyone’s delight in Division 4-2A — and Calhoun City for the 2A North state title last week. Calhoun City was the defending state champion by the way.

While that doesn’t mean much to many folks, it means a lot to some Tigers in Newton. In the first round of the Class 2A playoffs, Newton had Winona on the ropes, losing a 29-28 decision after leading 22-8 at the half. I’m not saying that Newton could have made it all the way to Jackson but they would have beaten West Tallahatchie the next week and might have even given Scott Central a run for their money.

While that’s no consolation prize for the Tigers, here’s one thing I think they can take away from it. While the season didn’t end the way Newton wanted it to, coach Ryan Smith has taken Newton into the upper tier of Class 2A.

And here’s another good guy who is doing things the right way and feels like he’s only halfway done in his rebuilding process at Newton, which should be scary to everyone else in Class 2A. Smith is not only building a winner, but he’s building you men and being a spiritual leader, which pays greater dividends than any championship trophy.

So who says the good guy doesn’t win because here are three that certainly fall into that good guy territory.

Robbie Robertson is sports editor for The Newton County Appeal.