Jackets unleashed: SHS opens Jones era with win

Coach Chris Jones meets with his Yellowjackets.
Staff Writer

Nine months have passed for Starkville Yellowjacket players since they walked off the field in despair following a season-ending loss to Clinton.

Every bit of emotion from that loss that kept the defending Class 6A State champions out of the playoffs was unleashed on Friday night.

The Jackets put together one of the more dominating games in recent memory in Noxubee County as the coach Chris Jones era kicked off in style. Starkville poured on 20 points in both the second and third quarters as it sent the stunned Tiger fans in Macon home with an opening loss 43-3.

“I’m proud of my guys,” Jones said. “I’m pretty positive that all the work our guys did in the offseason paid off. Hats off to my coaches, but we’ve got so much more to do. One game at a time.”

Starkville’s defense was as impressive as always as the unit gave up just 36 yards rushing against the Tigers unit and 211 yards total.

“We planned this and we went through with the plan,” junior linebacker Zach Edwards said. “It was a total team effort.”

The offense produced 392 yards on its own, 244 of which came from the rushing attack.

Noxubee found some room in the Starkville defense very early thanks to the work of wide receiver Kyziah Pruitt. The talented junior pass catcher hauled in a big reception of over 34 yards and got the Tigers into field goal range where they earned the first points with a 25-yard kick.

Starkville answered that kick with one of its own set up by a 79-yard kick return from Andreus Swanigan. The drive stalled prompting a 32-yard field goal by Garin Boniol which was good for the 3-3 tie.
That tie carried into the second quarter when the Yellowjackets stung with authority.

The defense got pressure from Edwards often – one particular rush forced an interception to Myles Stone – and the offense began to find its rhythm. Rodrigues Clark hit the end zone twice from 30 and 53 yards to make it a 16-3 game with 2:50 left in the half.

With time running out in the second quarter, Malik Brown then found Mississippi State commit Cameron Gardner for a spectacular 19-yard pass in coverage and it was a 23-3 advantage at the break.

“I think it kind of shifted the momentum for us," Gardner said. "That was the game winning blow so it felt good to step on their throat.”

That momentum just carried its way into the second half.

Starkville continued to pound away with its running back depth as K.J. Lawrence powered his way for a 35-yard run into the red zone. Andreus Swanigan followed that with a 10-yard touchdown.

Later in the quarter, wide receiver Cameron Hines converted a fourth down with a 44-yard touchdown reception.

Corbin Grantham kept the party going with a defensive touchdown as the sophomore safety took an interception back to the end zone for a 20-yard score and the Jackets were off to the races up 43-3 after three quarters.
The Jackets emptied the bench from there and cruised on back to campus with a 1-0 record.

Clark carried the load for the Jackets with his 116 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. Brown had 52 yards of his own and passed for another 143 with two scores.

Hines had 77 yards receiving on three catches and a score to lead the way.

Defensively, Grantham ended up leading the team in tackles with seven and added his pick six for good measure. Jalen Ware, Josh Lawrence, Cameron Bell and Jalil Clemons all added a sack each.

The Jackets continue to a tough part to the schedule next Friday with their home opener against Oxford in the Little Egg Bowl.

“This is the start of a long journey,” Edwards said. “We’ve got to win some more.”