HORN LAKE – It was a night of firsts for Starkville High.
The first pass of the game and first touch for sophomore Devin Mitchell both found the end zone as the Yellowjackets coasted to a 49-19 victory at Horn Lake.
The game also ended with Starkville head coach Jamie Mitchell being strangely ejected with 7 minutes left and his team up 30 points. Mitchell would say after the game it was the first time he’s ever been ejected at any level in his entire coaching career.
The victory led to Starkville’s first back-to-back 3-0 start in region play since at least the 2003 season.
It didn’t take long for Jaquez Johnson to showcase why he’s one of the area’s best talents.
Starkville’s senior quarterback dropped back for his first pass of the game and quickly quieted the Horn Lake (1-6, 1-2) crowd by floating a perfectly thrown ball to wide receiver Shaquille Hill for 65-yard touchdown.
Johnson accounted for 227 total yards (191 passing, 36 rushing) in nearly three quarters of work and had three scores against an Eagles defense that could only force SHS punter Wesley Montgomery on the field when the Yellowjackets (5-2, 3-0) would back themselves up with penalties.
“Offensively I thought we played very well in all phases tonight,” Coach Jamie Mitchell said. “We just have to put a game together where we’re solid in all three phases and we haven’t done that yet.”
Devin Mitchell scored on similarly constructed 49 and 57-yard sprints to the end zone. The sophomore tailback would end the night with his first 100-yard performance of the 2010 season and an 82-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Devin Mitchell’s all-purpose yards total would be top the 300-yard mark.
“Not a lot of people know this but he’s the fastest guy we got on this team,” Mitchell said. “It was nice to get him some experience tonight early.”
In its last three games, Starkville has outscored its opponents 134-49.
The victory was soured after a bizarre set of events occurred with 7:33 left in the game. Coach Jamie Mitchell was ejected for arguing consecutive penalty calls by the referees while his team was up 42-13. While Mitchell was escorted to the locker room by security personnel, the SHS fan contingent gave the Yellowjackets first-year head coach a standing ovation.
“All I said was it’s 42-14 and you’re still calling penalties, that’s it,” Mitchell said. “We’ll have to figure out a fine and I’ll appeal it of course. That’s the same officiating crew we had against DeSoto Central and they gave us 23 penalties in that game. My thing with that is if the game gets out of hand, just let the clock run and these guys won’t let you do that.”
SHS athletic director Stan Miller confirmed after the game his school will appeal any punishment possibly given to Mitchell for his ejection and said the situation will likely involve a teleconference with the Mississippi High School Athletic Association office Monday morning.
Horn Lake’s pass-happy offense was shut down as Eagles quarterback Mac Cooley, who was coming off a 270-yard passing performance last week against DeSoto Central, would struggle against a Starkville pass rush that was constantly bringing pressure on the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder.
Starkville used a first-half interception by Bryce Henderson to trigger the momentum for a 69-yard scoring drive in just six plays that concluded with a 10-yard scamper by Garrett Smith.
The SHS special teams unit immediately got the ball back to its offense as their directional kickoff was fumbled and recovered by the Yellowjackets. Starkville went 23 yards in less than a minute of time to tack on another score on an 11-yard pass as Johnson found Hill with one-on-one coverage again.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior’s second and final touchdown of the night gave SHS a 28-point lead as Hill filled up the stat sheet Friday night with 95 yards receiving.
Starkville tacked on one final touchdown before the halftime whistle as Johnson found sophomore receiver Jimmy Saulsberry racing down the middle of the field for a 43-yard touchdown strike.
The Yellowjackets racked up 242 total yards in the first 24 minutes of play and would take three kneel down plays to end the first half with the ball at midfield.