EUPORA – Deshawn Starks made the most of his last regular season game at Eupora High School.
The senior tailback ended what could be possibly his final home game with 167 yards on only 11 carries and three touchdowns.
His first run of the night was a textbook sweep where the 6-foot-2, 175-pound tailback went untouched for a 54-yard score.
“On the first run, all I saw was a big hole and then knew it was my job to run as fast as I could,” Starks said. “The offensive line did a great job and they were the key to anything I did tonight.”
Essentially it looked Friday night that if Starks could get to the corner, there wasn’t a J.Z. George defender that could lay a hand on him.
“He’s slowly making the transition from a wide receiver to a running back,” Eupora head coach Junior Graham said. “Hopefully when we’re rolling into Ackerman, he’ll be in postseason form.”
The Eupora defense, whose starts posted a three-quarter shutout, kept the momentum after the following play resulted in the snap being over J.Z. George quarterback Rafael Jones and the ball was recovered by Eagles senior defensive end Bobby Hill.
Four plays after the Jaguars turnover, sophomore fullback Vandy Smith plunged in from 5 yards out for the first of his two scores to give Eupora an early 12-point lead.
The Eupora (5-3, 2-1) offense grinded out 258 yards of its 338 yards of total offense in a first half where they’d roll up 33 unanswered points. The Eagles would not be forced to punt the ball away until their was seven minutes left in the game.
Starks’ fifth carry of the night resulted in one cutback and 46 yards later he was all by himself in the end zone to make the Eupora lead 19-0.
After they forced a turnover on downs, the Eagles offense went to the air to showcase some of the youth of the program as sophomore quarterback Jamal Roby found sophomore receiver Derick Jones on a fourth-down fade route for a 19-yard touchdown strike. Jones tipped the ball over a J.Z. George defensive back but managed to maintain his feet to catch the ball for the score.
Eupora, who has been constantly dealing with injuries throughout the 2010 season, was able to welcome the return of senior Steadman Rice as one of the school’s best athletes had been on the sidelines since Aug. 10 with a broken leg.
Rice lined up at safety throughout the game and was given a test run at tailback in the second half with the game already out of reach.
“It felt so good to get him back on the field for the first time in over nine weeks especially on defense,” Graham said. “You can tell he’s not running with 100 percent confident right now but I know it’ll come back quick for him.
The Eupora pass rush harassed Jones, the Jaguars senior quarterback, out of the pocket for three sacks and three turnovers throughout the evening.
“They played with a lot of energy tonight and I thought we defended the pass better than we had all season,” Graham said.
With the victory, Eupora can guarantee itself a playoff appearance with either a win in one of its final two road games (at West Lowndes and at Ackerman) or another J.Z. George (3-6, 1-2) loss.