The Starkville High School football team is once again one step closer to Jackson.
It is a familiar place for the Yellowjackets after they beat the Oxford Chargers 28-7 Friday night in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs at Yellowjacket Stadium.
"This is a big game," SHS senior quarterback Gabe Myles said. "We are trying to get back to Jackson, (and) doing what we know we can do. They were a quality opponent."
The Jackets (10-3) host West Point next Friday night for the North Half State championship. This is the second year in a row SHS plays for the North State championship and the first time since 2000-01 that the Jackets will play in back-to-back years.
The Jackets went three times from 1994-96.
At the half, both teams were scoreless and both sides had made a bunch of mistakes.
Yellowjacket senior Dondre Dailey picked off a Parker Adamson pass with 45 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
One play later Myles fumbled the ball and the Chargers recovered it.
On the very next play, Adamson threw another interception, this time to senior Johnny Smith.
The Jackets were unable to convert on the turnovers and found themselves tied at the half.
The best chance for scoring came when Oxford attempted a 44-yard field goal with 6:01 to go in the second quarter by Cody Mills. He pushed it wide right.
Starkville managed to compile 116 total yards off offense in the first half, while Oxford only got 89.
SHS head coach Jamie Mitchell didn't hit the panic button because things couldn't get much worse for the Yellowjackets.
"I didn't panic," Mitchell said. "I didn't go in there and get on them to bad. I felt like if it could have gone wrong, it went wrong for us in the first half. Turnovers and penalties just killed us. If we could eliminate some mistakes, we would do what we did in the second half."
His team responded in the second half.
Oxford got the ball to start the second half, but were forced to punt after a three-and-out.
SHS took over at the Oxford 46-yard line. They drove down the field and set up a second and goal at the 1-yard line.
"It was a little frustrating only because we knew we could do better," Myles said of the first-half performance. "We were hurting ourselves."
That was all corrected when Myles took the handoff and followed his offensive line into the end zone to give Starkville a 6-0 lead. Charlie Henderson connected on the extra point and the Jackets led 7-0 with 9:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Oxford was forced to punt on its next drive and pinned Starkville inside of its own 1-yard line.
That didn't seem to bother the Jackets as they marched 99 yards in 9 plays down the field, capped off by a 1-yard Myles quarterback sneak to give SHS a 14-0 lead with 1:26 to go in the third quarter.
The Chargers gave the ball right back to the Yellowjackets when Adamson fumbled the ball. SHS pounced on it and took over at the Oxford 29-yard line with 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Three plays later, the Jackets faced a fourth down and one. They decided to go for it over kicking the field goal and were stopped.
"We felt good at 14-0," Mitchell said. "Probably should have kicked the field goal and try to get up 17-0."
Two plays later Adamson found freshman tight end Zach Cousar for a 30-yard passing score to make it 14-7 with 11:26 to go in the game.
That was the only highlight for Adamson, who had a trouble getting going. He ended the night completing 18-of-38 passes for 205 yards.
"It's the best quarterback in the state in my opinion," Mitchell said. "I thought the big difference was, not so much in the secondary, we got after them up front. A lot of times it was with a three-man rush, (and) just total hats off to the defense. They have been that way all year long."
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Preston Baker returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-7 Yellowjackets.
"He just keeps doing it," Mitchell said. "We didn't get it to him enough in the first half. He has to get more touches. That is what you get with him. He's special."
It was Baker's first kickoff return touchdown since last August against Noxubee County and the first of the season for any Jacket.
"I saw the hole," Baker said. "When he kicked it, he kicked it to the wrong person. I saw the big hole and I just gashed through there."
Baker finished the night with 127 rushing yards on 11 carries. He had two returns for 95 yards.
After Baker rushed for 141 yards last week in a win over Saltillo, it marked the first time all season a Jacket has had back-to-back 100-yard rushing games.
Darius Grayer ended the scoring with a 15-yard run with 6:16 remaining in the game.
The win gives the Jackets a rematch with the Green Wave. It is a matchup Mitchell and the Jackets are waiting for.
"I promise you we are looking forward to West Point," Mitchell said. "There doesn't need to be a lot said when the two of us get together. It's going to be a war. It's the way it ought to be. We are the two best teams in the north."