Jackets fly higher than the Rockets to claim district crown
Starkville football coach Jamie Mitchell gets a Gatorade bath after his team clinched the Class 5A, Region 2 championship Friday night. (Photo by Lee Adams, SDN)
By LEE ADAMS
PHILADELPHIA â€“ The regular season has now come to an end and the Starkville Yellowjackets finds themselves at the top of Class 5A, Region 2.
View more articles in:
The Jackets went on the road and came home with a 35-14 win over the Neshoba Central Rockets and the division title.
Starkville (9-2, 7-0) finished off division play against Neshoba Central (7-4, 5-2) in a game that was a winner take all affair.
"We set our goal to win the division championship," said Mitchell. "These guys have done a great job all year long and came to a tough place to play tonight and got the big win for us."
The Rockets had to defeat the Jackets by five points to earn second place in division and had to win by 10 to win the division.
Even though points needed to play a factor for Neshoba Central, Starkville treated the game as battle for the title. The point issue for the Rockets turned out to be a non-issue as Starkville scored 14 unanswered first half points after the Rockets drew first blood in the first quarter.
The Jackets held a 14-6 lead at the break, but made a quick statement at the start of the third quarter.
The Jacket defense shut down the Rockets on the opening drive and forced two fumbles. When the offense got the ball on the ensuing drive, they quickly scored when Gabe Myles, with help of a huge block by Jimmy Saulsberry, ran 41 yards for a touchdown.
The statement made in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter was a product of what Mitchell told his guys at halftime.
"We told them at half that 24 minutes to the division championship," said Mitchell. "We were up by eight at the half, that wasn't enough but I think our guys really rallied."
Myles scored again later in the quarter from 1 yard out to extend Starkville's lead to 29-6, all while the Jacket defense was containing the Rockets very good rushing attack.
Neshoba Central was able to find the end zone again at the start of the fourth quarter. However, Starkville found the end zone again as well, but this one came a as surprise to almost everyone in attendance.
When faced with a fourth and 10, Michael Newman was in punt formation, but he didn't punt the ball this time. Instead he threw the ball to Devin Mitchell, who raced 45 yards for the touchdown.
The 35-14 win gave the Jacket the division title and coach Mitchell was pleased with his team's performance.
"I thought we played great on both sides of the ball," said MItchell. "We eliminated some mistakes on offense. We put 35 points on the board and I'll take that any day of the week."
The 21-point win was larger than some had expected, but Mitchell isn't taking anything away from his opponent.
"They have a good football team," said Mitchell. "They wouldn't be playing for the division title if they weren't."
For the first time since 2003, Starkville will host a playoff game and they will do it as division champions.
"This is a great great thing," said Mitchell. "It's great for Starkville, great for our school and we are excited to be back in the playoffs."
Since the Jackets will be at home next Friday, Mitchell is hoping the hometown crowd will come out and support him and his players.
"Sitting here at 9-2, there is a lot to be excited about," said Mitchell. "First playoff game in a long time in Starkville and hopefully, we'll have a good crowd."
Even though Starkville's round one opponent in playoffs isn't sure as of late Friday night, Mitchell is ready.
"Now the second season starts and we'll be ready to go." said MItchell.