Starkville's Preston Baker had three rushing touchdowns against Ridgeland last week. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Starkville Yellowjackets have plenty of options in the running game.
With running backs Jaquez Horsley and Preston Baker, wide receiver Darius Grayer and quarterback Gabe Myles, the Jackets believe they have athletes capable of picking up yards on the ground in bunches.
Starkville head coach Jamie Mitchell knows that may not always be the case with the run game, but was happy to see what the quartet was able to do in last week's 23-0 victory over Ridgeland.
"When you look at our rushing numbers, Gabe carried 13 times, Horsley, Baker and Grayer each carried it nine or 10, so we had about 40 carries divided among four players and that was really, really good," Mitchell said. "(Whether the Jackets run or not) depends on who we're playing. I felt like we could run the ball against Ridgeland. There will be some games we go into feeling we can throw it more. I think last week, we averaged 6 yards per play."
Starkville may have to pass more tonight when it makes the trip to Canton to face the Tigers in the fourth Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 game of the season for both teams. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Jackets have records of 4-3 overall and 3-0 in the region. With each win, the next game means more and more.
"That's the thing for us in trying to win the division back-to-back is a goal," Mitchell said.
Starkville's success has been mainly due to the rushing of Horsley, Grayer, Baker and Myles.
Horsley leads the Jackets with 385 yards on 58 carries and five touchdowns, while Grayer has 228 yards on just 21 attempts and one score, Baker has 208 yards on 42 carries and five touchdowns, and Myles adds 163 yards on 63 attempts and three scores.
Starkville is out-rushing opponents by nearly 100 yards. The Jackets average 200.7 on the ground per game, while opponents have 123 yards per outing.
In the passing department, Myles has completed 37 of 77 attempts for 449 yards.
The SHS defense still has not allowed an offensive touchdown in region play, which Mitchell calls "exceptional."
He knows if the Jackets could just protect the football better, they could enjoy even better performances.
"We're still having a problem with turnovers," Mitchell said. "That's what is keeping us from playing really well."
Starkville is continuing to get healthier with the return of Myles and Baker, but Mitchell said the players that have replaced the starters lost have been the key to recent success.
"We lost Jimmy (Saulsberry), Devin (Mitchell), Ladorrius (Pittman) and Kirk (Kinard)," Mitchell said. "The guys we plugged into those spots have over time got up to speed and that's the biggest difference for us right now. The players we put into those positions are starting to get some game experience now.
"Are they as good as we lost? Who's to say. The biggest thing is the experience factor. They've played some games and have gotten a lot of practice reps. With that, we've gotten better."
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