Altmyer, Harvey shine in Starkville's spring football win

Rufus Harvey uses a block from a teammate to find running room for SHS Friday night.
Staff Writer

Altmyer’s pass is complete to Harvey.

If Friday night was any indication, that refrain will echo through the air from the public address system at Starkville’s Yellowjacket Stadium quite often this fall. As Starkville hosted and defeated Whitehaven out of Memphis, Tennessee, 24-7 over three quarters of varsity spring football action, quarterback Luke Altmyer and wide receiver Rufus Harvey stole the show.

“This is just a little preview,” Harvey said of his and Altmyer’s performances.

Despite the fact he’ll only be heading into his sophomore season in 2018, Altmyer looked like a seasoned veteran in his two quarters on the field. Altmyer completed 16 of his 23 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown. About his only blemish was an interception thrown early in the first quarter.

Altmyer’s favorite target was the junior-to-be Harvey. Harvey caught eight passes for 158 yards and a score.

“That could be (a special combination) for a long time,” Starkville head coach Chris Jones said of Altmyer and Harvey. “Both of them are really young and both of them are really good players. The thing is, this is something they do everyday. This didn’t just happen (on Friday). They come out here every day. They work hard. They work on their game. I really feel good going into the season about those two making a lot of plays.”

Altmyer frequently displayed his strong arm and impressive accuracy. He looked comfortable on both short and long throws. Altmyer said afterwards that he’s still working to improve aspects of his game, particularly his pocket awareness, but he’s already looking advanced for his age.

“He has a chance to be really good and to be one of the best to come through here,” Jones said of Altmyer. “That being said, he still has a long way to go, but I like what I see. He’s to me what I call a point guard for football. A lot of times you have a quarterback that doesn’t understand that getting the ball to your best guys is how you play quarterback. That’s what we ask for out of Luke. We have a good defense and we have athletes, so his job is to just be a distributor, be a playmaker and allow his guys to get out there and make plays. He did a good job with that (Friday).”

Harvey was there to help Altmyer’s cause all night. Altmyer said his and Harvey’s chemistry has been an ongoing development.

“Before the spring, we put in work after school,” Altmyer said. “With all the work we’ve put in, I know where he’s going to be. He knows where I’m going to throw it.”

As he displayed all night Friday, Harvey can be a game-changer. Jones even went so far as to compare Harvey to a former Starkville High standout that’s now one of college football’s best receivers.

“He’s a confident kid, he’s a good kid and he’s a smart kid on and off the field,” Jones said of Harvey. “I don’t have anything bad to say about him. If he was 6 feet, people would be saying he’s the next (former Starkville receiver and current Ole Miss player) A.J. Brown. He’s really good. He’s a competitor. He believes he’s the best guy on the field each and every day. I love it, and pound for pound, he’s probably one of the strongest kids. He has a good body. He’s just a really good player.”

The scary thing for Class 6A in the upcoming year is that Starkville’s threats don’t stop with Altmyer and Harvey.

Running back Rodrigues Clark didn’t have much production Friday as he rushed for just 12 yards and a touchdown, but he’s one of the state’s top backs. Wide receiver Malik Brown, who caught three passes for 25 yards on Friday, gives the Starkville offense an element of versatility as he can use his speed and quickness to aid the Jackets in multiple ways.

Then there’s the Starkville defense. The Jackets have a group that could be dominant defensively. On Friday night, they held a Whitehaven team that was in the Tennessee Class 6A semifinals last season to just 131 offensive yards over the three quarters of varsity action.

“We could be special,” Jones said of his defense. “We have a lot of stuff we have to clean up, but it’s the spring. That’s what the spring is for – just to get some film and have something for your coaches and even your players to evaluate this summer. It’s all about fixing everything heading into the summer.”

One thing that doesn’t need any patching up for Starkville is the Altmyer-to-Harvey combo. That seems to be in midseason form. All that’s left is for the fall to get here so those two can try to do their thing when it counts.
“We’ve got a really good connection,” Harvey said of himself and Altmyer.