Defense wins championships, or so the saying goes.
On Friday night, the Yellowjacket defense played with tenacity shutting out the Ridgeland Titians in a 23-0 Class 5A, Region 2 win.
“I challenged them at the half and I didn’t realize it that we hadn’t given up a touchdown in the first two division games, and this makes three in a row,” said SHS head coach Jamie Mitchell. “We couldn’t have given them any more chances than we did in the second half. Hat’s off to the defense. They just weren’t going to let them score, no matter what happened. I thought we did a great job on that side.”
Three times the Titians (4-3, 2-1) were threatening to score and three times they were turned away, twice inside the 5-yard-line. It was simply a dominating performance by the defense which started with a Dondre Dailey interception on Ridgeland’s second possession of the evening.
“He has played really good for us all year and one of our best cover guys,” said Mitchell. “They threw the slant on the short side of the field and I thought that really set the tone when we put another one in and went up 14-0.”
With each trip onto the field, the level of preparation was evident for the Jackets.
Starkville (4-3, 3-0) seemingly knew exactly what the Titans were going to run, something Mitchell was pleased with.
“They are well-schooled and they are going to play what they play,” he said. “That’s one good thing about playing a team like that. You don’t have to guess because you know where they are going to be. It was just about if we could block them or not.”
The Jackets held the visitors to just 126 yards of total offense and just seven first downs.
On offense, a trio of SHS players had the productivity with senior tailback Preston Baker leading the way with three scoring runs of 28, 1, 2 yards, all of which came in the first half. Baker had 10 carries for 62 yards but was surpassed by Jaquez Horsley with 89 yards on nine carries and Darius Grayer with seven carries for 89 yards.
“I thought in the first half, we did a good job and really clicked with so many people touching the ball that it makes it hard to load up on any one guy,” Mitchell said. “I was just really frustrated in the second half because I felt like we lost our edge because we were up 20-0. We just can’t let that happen.”
For the game, the Jackets posted 374 yards of total offense with quarterback Gabe Myles going 9 of 18 for 88 yards through the air. As a team, SHS rushed for 286 yards on 40 carries.
Starkville will return to the road next week as they will travel to Canton to take on the Tigers.