WEST POINT – Call it a program-defining win for the Jamie Mitchell at Starkville.
Last week Starkville High’s new head coach passionately expressed that close wasn’t good enough and Friday night they proved it.
In one of the biggest upsets of the area in 2010, Starkville scored 21 unanswered points to beat West Point, the top-ranked Class 5A team in Mississippi 21-20.
“We challenged them with everything but their mother’s love in that second half,” Mitchell said. “We’re not going to be satisfied playing great teams close and West Point is as great as we’ve been out there with.”
Starkville completed the comeback when senior tailback Garrett Smith found the end zone with 43 seconds left and Daniel Fumo’s extra-point gave Starkville faithful an opportunity to start the party.
West Point attempted to hang on to 17-game winning streak as Green Wave senior quarterback Justin Cox led his team 36 yards down the field after the Yellowjackets kickoff but a 41-yard field goal came up inches short of the crossbar as time expired.
“We had two weeks to prepare for those things but when you don't take care of the football and commit penalties this is what happens,” West Point head coach Chris Chambless said.
Cox, who has already verbally committed to Mississippi State, put the home team on the board with a 14-yard option run down the left sidelines as the 6-foot-1 and 175-pound signal caller broke at least three tackles on his way to the end zone.
The Green Wave’s senior signal caller rolled to the right and then floated a perfectly a fade pass down the left sideline to speedster Tez Pulliam for a 49-yard touchdown to make it 14-0. Cox was continually able to beat the Starkville defense on a play-action fake that would allow the West Point receivers to get behind the secondary for and easy pitch and catch.
Cox also for the first time all year play defense at the cornerback position.
Starkville (2-2) didn’t convert a first down until there was 1:25 left in the half but ended up gaining only 229 total yards on the Class 5A defending state champions. On its only productive drive of the first 16 minutes, Starkville had its 41-yard field goal attempt by Daniel Fumo blocked on the last play of the first half.
“I thought we just laid down in the first half and I’m not sure why,” Mitchell said.
West Point (2-1) made it 20-0 on a 3-yard inside run by senior tailback Lakenderic Thomas after the Yellowjackets had them stalled in the red zone but was drawn offsides on a fourth-and-5 situation. Thomas hit the century mark in yards with 1:34 left in the third quarter and finish with 161 yards on 26 carries.
Starkville finally got on the scoreboard with 2:30 left in the third quarter when Yellowjackets quarterback Jaquez Johnson scampered 10 yards on a designed play to make it a 13-point deficit with just over 10 minutes left in the game. The Jackets scoring drive, which came after an interception of a Cox pass deep in Starkville territory, was helped by back-to-back personal foul penalties. The first was for a hit to the head call and the second was Chambless going halfway out on the field to protest the previous flag.
Johnson would end the game with both a running and passing touchdown.
The Yellowjackets comeback effort maintained life as Johnson found senior receiver Shaquille Hill in the fourth quarter for a 23-yard touchdown pass just as the Starkville quarterback was about to be sacked.
Starkville will get a week off to enjoy this victory before they start region when they travel to Desoto Central while West Point will host Class 4A power Noxubee County.