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Season to remember: SHS overcomes adversity on many fronts to win State 5A title

December 5, 2012

Lineman AJ Smith of the Yellowjackets celebrates one of the successful moments during the season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)

The Starkville Yellowjackets were not going to accept where the football season was headed.

After beginning the year with a 1-3 record, the Jackets were not going to look back.

Starkville's focus was moving forward and concentrating on the Class 5A, Region 2 schedule.

The Jackets ended up winning all seven region games and swept through the playoffs to win the Class 5A State championship. It was Starkville's fifth State championship in school history and first since 2001.

"People have no idea how hard it is to win a playoff game much less win a North half championship and on top of that win a State championship," SHS football coach Jamie Mitchell said. "It's next to impossible when you think about what has to happen.

"It's not just the State championship, but we played for it last year. We've been to Jackson two consecutive years and that's unheard of. Some of the people that I look up to in this profession have never even been to Jackson. Here, we have been twice and won it once."

The road to the State title was not an easy one for the Jackets.

During the stretch where it lost three of four games, Starkville had two of its top offensive players in quarterback Gabe Myles and running back Preston Baker experience ankle injuries. In the offseason, the Jackets had to cope with the death of teammate Devin Mitchell.

Coach Mitchell also had his mother pass away during the season.
Despite all of that, Starkville found a way to persevere.

"These kids just had so much resolve about them," Mitchell said. "No matter what we faced, it seemed they found a way to go around it and weren't going to be denied the ultimate prize and that ultimate prize is (the State championship trophy)."

The Jackets began the season with a 29-8 loss to Noxubee County, which eventually won the Class 4A State crown, then were defeated by Madison Central 24-8, a team that played for the North Class 6A title.

After Starkville defeated Tupelo 28-0, it lost a 47-22 decision to West Point on Sept. 7. That was the last time the Jackets came up on the losing end.

SHS began its successful run in the region by beating Lanier 48-0, Provine 23-6, Ridgeland 23-0, Canton 42-0, Yazoo City 46-0, Callaway 34-16, and Neshoba Central 21-10.

The Jackets opened the Class 5A playoffs with a 45-7 victory over Saltillo, then defeated Oxford 28-7 and West Point in overtime 29-28 to claim the North Class 5A title. Starkville got a 28-11 win over Pascagoula for the State crown.

Along the way, there were some Jackets that put up some nice numbers statistically.

Myles had 1,834 yards of total offense by completing 89-of-184 pass attempts for 1,243 yards and rushed 139 times for 591 yards. He accounted for 25 total touchdowns (14 passing, 11 rushing).

Baker was the leading rusher for SHS and just missed the 1,000-yard mark with 969 yards on 137 carries and 11 scores. Sophomore Jaquez Horsley wasn't very far behind with 114 attempts for 788 yards and nine touchdowns.

In the receiving department, Kentrell Spencer had 25 catches for 488 yards and six touchdowns.

Taylor Johnston led the defense in tackles with 109 total, while Marlow Rogers just missed 100 tackles with 99 total. Devonte Davis added 83 total tackles.

Even with it being just a few days now since the Jackets brought home their first State championship trophy since 2001, Mitchell has visions on getting more.

"We want to use the word dynasty here," Mitchell said. "That's what we want. We want a program that's year after year after year playing at that level."

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