Starks sparks Eupora over Bruce
EUPORA - Upon awaking this morning, Deshawn Starks said he's heading straight to the racks to pick up a copy of the Starkville Daily News.
The Eupora senior wants something tangible to remember what he admitted was the best performance of his career.
Starks ran for 230 yards and four touchdowns to pave the way for the Eagles' 40-28 win over Bruce Friday night in Eupora.
"Since I've been at Eupora, that may be the most dominant performance at that position that I've seen," said Eagles' head coach Junior Graham of Starks' night. "I can't remember another back having a night like this since I've been here, and Eupora has had a lot of really good tailbacks."
Making Starks' big evening more impressive was the fact that the majority of his damage came in the final three quarters.
Eupora (3-1) struggled to move the ball throughout the initial period, failing to get a single first down as Bruce (1-3) jumped to a 7-0 advantage early.
"The blocking wasn't really giving me a hole, and I probably wasn't really hitting the hole (in the first quarter)," said Starks.
In the second quarter, Starks came alive. After a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jamall Roby to Derrick Jones combined with a converted two-point conversion gave the Eagles an 8-7 lead, Starks reeled off a 69-yard scoring run on Eupora's next possession.
It was only the beginning for the Starks, who just moved into the tailback position three weeks ago after starting the year at wide receiver.
"This was real fun," said Starks. "Somebody had to step up and be a leader. This feels real good."
As great as Starks' night was, it looked like it wouldn't be enough early in the fourth quarter as Bruce returned a Eupora fumble to the goal line and punched it in two plays later for a 28-20 lead.
Starks' 51-yard touchdown run on Eupora's ensuing drive led to a tie game, but the momentum really turned in the Eagles' favor on Bruce's following drive.
On a third and long, Eupora linebacker Jeremy Wright, who played sparingly after a leg injury last week against Winona, picked off a pass from Bruce quarterback Davis Brown and returned it to the Trojan 40-yard line.
Five plays later, the Eagles had a 34-28 lead. They wouldn't trail again.
"We were in a dog fight and my team looks up to me as a leader," said Wright. "I just came through at the right time."
Kevon Embry led the Eupora defense with 14 tackles.
Tyree Kirkwood also added a late interception for the Eagles.
Starks added his fourth touchdown run with 1:36 left, a 14-yard rush, to cement both his memorable night and the Eupora win.
"He had those stats, played every snap on the defensive side of the ball, he punted, and he kicked off for us," said Graham. "In all those phases of the game, he played extremely well tonight. He's a senior and your seniors have got to play for you.
"This is a big win for us. It could have went either way."