Vols kept believing: Nicholson said players 'bought into' plan to reach title game

Starkville Academy coach Chase Nicholson introduces player and assistant coaches at Monday's press conference.
Staff Writer

Four seasons ago, Chase Nicholson was in a similar spot as he was on Monday afternoon at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame Museum in Jackson.

His team was preparing for a state championship appearance against Oak Forest Academy, but then he was in the background as an assistant coach. This time, Nicholson stood at the podium and introduced his staff and his captains to those in attendance. It was a long journey for him to get to that spot, but it’s been worth it.

“I’m grateful and thankful for the opportunity," Nicholson said. "I’m thankful for coach (Jeff) Terrill and all of the coaches along the way that have taught me anything. As much as I’m thankful for the coaches, I’m thankful for the players because it’s the guys that bought into the program. They believe in each other and they believe in us.”

Nicholson is always quick to take that spotlight off of him. At the presentation of teams on Monday, he introduced three coaches that have been vital in his accomplishments as a head coach, just as he was an offensive coordinator for the Starkville Academy team that made its run to the state title game in 2014.

Athletic Director Tony Stanford has led prestigious public schools across the state before settling with the Vols to help bring Nicholson along. Bubba Davis has multiple state championships in his career. It can be argued that defensive coordinator Brad Butler has been the glue that has held it all together with his defense during Nicholson’s time as well.

It’s a testament to every piece pulling its own weight at Starkville Academy.

“The biggest thing is always trust," Nicholson said. "With a coach Stanford, coach Davis and coach Butler, we’re like family. We mesh well together.

"Being able to have guys with that much knowledge, they all have the trust to tell me exactly what they think. That’s something that you want and the kids feed off of that bond.”

Quarterback Noah Methvin was there on Monday with his coaches and teammates to take part in the festivities. He went from defensive end to starting quarterback last season for the Volunteers at a time where he admitted he wasn’t very good.

Now Methvin is one of the team’s most important cogs splitting time with Ben Owens at quarterback and bringing energy to the team throughout. He credits Nicholson in getting him where he is now.

“He and my dad have taught me pretty much everything I know about football,” Methvin said of Nicholson. “He and coach Butler in the weight room and in two-a-days taught me so much about being a man. He’s been a really good role model for me.”

SA heads to Jackson Academy on Saturday with just one blemish on its record. The 12-1 Vols have outscored their opponents 102-0 through three playoff games and are playing their best football at the right time.

However, that one blemish is the team SA meets at 2:30 p.m. The defending state champs of Indianola Academy come in with back-to-back undefeated seasons and are making its third-straight trip to the final game.

Just as he has done since taking over in 2015, Nicholson will be relying on everyone pulling their own part of the rope. He’ll take what he has against anyone in the state.

“At the end of the day, we’re a big happy family and that’s what I’m most thankful for,” Nicholson said. “The opportunity to play in a state championship is every coach’s dream. To be here now with this group, I’m beyond blessed.”