Yellowjackets rally for 26-23 victory
RIDGELAND - The resilient Starkville Yellowjackets were at it again Friday night.
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Junior quarterback Gabe Myles definitely exhibited that.
Myles overcame three turnovers, two interceptions and a lost fumble, to lead the Jackets from a 23-11 deficit in the second half against the Ridgeland Titans to take a 26-23 victory.
A 2-yard touchdown run by Stanley Higgins and a 2-point conversion run by Myles with 1:49 left in the game was the difference for Starkville.
"You've just got to move on to the next play," Myles said. "The offensive line came through when they had to come through. When all came through, but I want to thank the defense."
An interception by Johnny Smith with 47 seconds left in the game sealed the Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 win for the Jackets.
"I think it's a product of our preseason non-division schedule and being in close games, being in tough games and knowing how to win late," Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said. "We wouldn't have won this ballgame a year ago.
"We had a real special day in the locker room Thursday and some things happened where you know your team is getting there."
Despite a game where they were hampered by penalties and turnovers, the Jackets found a way to pull out a win.
"We certainly did some things to hurt ourselves in the first half with a pick six, but I can't say enough about Kenny (Burton) and his guys (from Ridgeland). They left it all out here. We've just got to clean up some mistakes and keep getting better."
With the victory, the Jackets improved to 5-2 overall and 3-0 in the region.
Starkville began its rally by getting a touchdown out of the passing game at the 2:20 mark of the third quarter when Myles tossed an 11-yard pass to Higgins. The pass for the 2-point conversion fell incomplete so the margin was cut to 23-11.
The Jackets got closer at the 8:09 mark of the fourth quarter when Devin Mitchell broke a 24-yard run for a touchdown.
Coach Jamie Mitchell was happy his squad could generate points offensively.
"I know we went up and down the field about every way we could go, but finally we found a way," Mitchell said.
In the first half, Starkville recorded one first down on its initial offensive possession when Myles completed a 10-yard pass to Jimmy Saulsberry, but two plays later Myles threw a pass into the flat that was picked off by Ridgeland's Jymal Ellis, who returned it 33 yards for the touchdown.
It looked as if the Jackets had responded on their next drive with a 46-yard scoring pass from Myles to Devin Mitchell, but they were found guilty of an illegal man downfield which negated the play.
Starkville was able to get a first down on the ground after the penalty, but Myles went to the air again and had it intercepted by Kris Givens, who returned it from Ridgeland's own 1-yard line all of the way to the 21-yard line of the Jackets. The Titans took advantage of the turnover for points again as Tre Taliaferno booted a 33-yard field goal at the 1:09 mark of the first quarter.
Starkville got five points back fast in the second quarter.
After Daniel Fumo made his first field goal of the season for the Jackets, a 41-yarder with 9:33 remaining in the second quarter, Eric Rogers tackled Quardarius Armour in the end zone for a safety at the 9:21 mark.
With those plays, SHS had cut the lead to 9-5. However, Tyler James completed a 62-yard pass to Derrian Harrington with 6:43 left in second quarter to put the Titans up 16-5 at halftime.
Ridgeland struck again with 5:30 remaining in the third quarter when James got the football to Bryce Williams. Williams did the rest as he raced 89 yards for the touchdown.
Myles finished the game with 158 yards rushing on 25 carries for the Jackets and completed 12 of 22 pass attempts for 141 yards.
Ridgeland's Armour, who came into the game with 909 yards rushing for the season, was held to 14 yards on 10 carries by the SHS defense.
Along with Smith's fourth quarter pick, Stanley Childs also had an interception in the third quarter for the Jackets.
Starkville returns home next Friday to take on Canton.