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By DANNY P. SMITH
It wasn't only the Madison Central Jaguars that had an option.
The Starkville Yellowjackets also had the choice of playing better than they did last week, or have another tough outing against a good football team.
Starkville came up with a strong defensive effort against the option rushing attack of the Jaguars in the second half and took a 16-14 victory Friday night at home.
After letting a first-half lead get away in a 33-21 loss at Noxubee County to open the season, the Jackets shut out Madison Central in the second half.
"The difference from this week to last week is amazing," Starkville defensive coordinator Preston Leathers said. "We felt like we under-achieved big time last week. After the jamboree, we talked about if we score three, we win. That right there is what we expected to happen."
The Jackets saw the visitors take a 14-13 advantage at halftime before getting a 24-yard field goal from Charlie Henderson and the defense making that stand up.
SHS head coach Jamie Mitchell called the loss to Noxubee County "an embarassment," but was very emotional about the way his team played against the Jaguars. His thoughts were also on his mother, a big supporter of the program, who is in the hospital.
"It's been really tough, but I'm just tickled to death for our guys," Mitchell said. "I've got a happy momma. I can tell you that.
"I can't tell you how embarrased we were about our effort (last week). Our play was just so subpar than what we expect. Our guys played their tail off tonight. I'm just really proud of them."
The Jackets took a 13-0 lead on a pair of touchdown runs by quarterback Gabe Myles of 1 yard and 13 yards.
Starkville had an opportunity to add more points to its advantage after recovering a fumble at the Jaguars' 27-yard line, but ended up turning the football right back over to Madison Central.
"It changed the whole first half," Mitchell said. "Give them all the credit because they came back and answered with two scores."
The Jaguars scored four plays after getting the football back when Doug Ball took a reverse and ran 52 yards to the end zone with 8:31 left in the second quarter.
Two possessions later, Madison Central scored again to take the lead on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Drew Rowell at the 1:50 mark of the second quarter.
The Jackets had a chance to regain the lead right before halftime, but Henderson missed a 32-yard field goal wide left.
When Henderson made his attempt with 5:54 left in the third quarter, Mitchell was glad to see him make the most of his second chance.
"Hats off to Charlies because he missed a huge field goal late in the first half, but comes back and hits the game winner," Mitchell said. "I couldn't be prouder for him."
Brandon Moore had a big game for the Jaguars with 124 yards rushing on 15 carries, but 109 of those yards came in the first half and he did not see the end zone.
Leathers said the coaches prepared the SHS defense all week for the option and the work paid off.
"Guys played a lot harder than they did last week and I'm really proud of them," Leathers said.
David Fair, defensive lineman of the Jackets, knew there were too many mistakes made last week that had to be corrected.
After focusing on that in practice, Fair was pleased with the results.
"We just had to step up and play football," Fair said.
Offensively, Myles rushed for 29 yards and two touchdowns and completed 8 of 15 pass attempts for 135 yards.
Mitchell said Myles was able to complete some key passes in the fourth quarter when Starkville had to have it.
"They were so aggressive on the run that we knew we had to throw the ball to loosen it up," Mitchell said.
Tailback Preston Baker had 30 yards on 11 carries for the Jackets, but picked up 82 yards receiving on five catches.
Starkville (1-1) remains home next Friday to play the Tupelo Golden Wave.