Jackets quiet Wildcats

SHS running back Rodriges Clark (3)
Staff Writer

Starkville High School linebacker Jacob Williams hauled in a pick late in the first quarter of the Yellowjackets’ Friday night contest against Meridian and had 56 yards between himself and the end zone.

The problem was, there was a whole mass of humanity standing in his way.

No matter. Williams juked, shimmied and sprinted his way to the goal line. Try as they might, the Wildcats couldn’t slow Williams down.

It was just that kind of night for the Starkville defense as the Jackets put a stranglehold on Meridian to earn a 40-6 victory.

“It was a whooping and (Starkville) just beat us,” Meridian head coach Calvin Hampton said.

The Yellowjackets (4-1) forced three turnovers, all in the first half, to pull away. Williams, Myles Stone and Corbin Grantham all had interceptions for Starkville to help the Jackets (4-1) put Meridian (1-3) down.
“I thought we played well early on,” Starkville head coach Chris Jones said. “We preach (forcing turnovers) every day.

“To me, that’s what great defenses do. You want to create turnovers on defense and then on offense, take care of the football. For the most part, I thought we did that.”

It was an all-around dominant defensive showing for the Jackets. Starkville allowed just 127 total yards to Meridian. Most of that came after halftime when the game was well in hand.

In the first half, the Wildcats totaled just 23 offensive yards.

“I think we just had a lack of execution on our side,” Hampton said. “(Starkville) gave us everything we wanted to do, but we just couldn’t execute individually. I think it comes down to, individually, being better than the man in front of you and I think offensive line-wise, we kind of submitted to what (Starkville) was giving us.”

Though the turnovers covered up for it, offensively Starkville had its struggles as well. The Jackets managed just 154 total yards.

Much of that came courtesy of running back Rodrigues Clark, who was playing in his first game in three weeks after dealing with a knee injury. Clark ran 10 times for 73 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his return.
“It’s a major boost (having Clark back),” Jones said. “Honestly, it’s not even so much him carrying the ball. He’s so much of a leader.

“It’s good to have a guy like that back. He’s not all the way back yet, but he’s getting better and that knee will get better each and every week.”

Both of Clark’s scores came in the first half as Starkville built its big early lead. The Jackets first got on the board just 88 seconds into the game when Meridian snapped the football into the end zone before falling on it and taking a safety.

Moments later, Garin Boniol added a 26-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to put Starkville up 5-0.

Before the first quarter was over, Clark punched in his first touchdown run – a 3-yard scamper – and Williams had his pick-six.

The points kept coming for Starkville in the second quarter. Clark had an 8-yard touchdown run and Malik Brown found Rufus Harvey on a 5-yard scoring pass. That put the Jackets up 33-0 at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, Starkville cemented its win in the fourth when backup quarterback Luke Altmyer hooked up with Cameron Hines on a 5-yard touchdown strike.

Meridian then scored its lone points of the night with 6:50 left in the game on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Tevarrius Adams to Curt Martin.

It was much too little, too late though for Meridian. Starkville’s second-straight win, both in lopsided fashion, was well in hand.

It has been a fun two weeks for the Yellowjackets as the team has bounced back strong from their loss at rival West Point back on Sept. 1.

Jones says Starkville still knows it has plenty of more work on the horizon though, starting with next week’s district opener at Provine.

“We’ve still got a lot of getting better to do, but the more we play, the better we’ll get," Jones said.