Jackets edged by Wildcats to close jamboree

Lazavier Evans (25) runs the football for Starkville High School on Saturday.

Staff Writer

Chris Jones made a point earlier in the week that he was not treating Starkville’s preseason jamboree as a regular game by any means.

The Yellow Jackets had double-digit starters on the bench during the game against Louisville as health precautions as they prepare for the season opener and it was evident early in the game. The Wildcats controlled most of the first quarter and into the second building a 17-0 lead before SHS came storming back with their young team and came within an extra point of tying it before falling 17-16.

“I thought we competed until the end," Jones said. "If we would have had another half, I think that it would have been favorable on our side of things. The main thing is that we came out of it healthy.”

Saturday night was a chance for younger players and a few of the older ones to get opportunities to impress the coaching staff. It was also an opportunity for all of the players to get the early-season penalties and missteps out of the way before play begins officially next Friday night at home.

Of those sitting out on Saturday night was quarterback Luke Altmyer, wide receivers Malik Brown and Rufus Harvey, running backs Rodrigues Clark and K.J. Lawrence, defensive linemen Jalil Clemons and Jaylan Ware and others. It made for an advantage for Louisville, but also a chance for several up-and-coming Jackets to show what they were made of.

Big plays were hard to come by in the first quarter for SHS and quarterback Nigel Johnson threw back-to-back interceptions on the second and third drive. The first one went back for six points and the second one had Louisville in business at the 3-yard-line and scoring three plays later.

Into the second quarter, the Wildcats added three more points with a 38-yard field goal to make it 17-0. Jones needed some players to step up and make plays and they would do it on both sides of the football over the final 12 minutes.

“You’ve got guys that haven’t been in any situations before and they came out a little timid,” Jones said. “As the game went on, I thought we got a little bit better and found some guys that could make a few plays. To me, that is what this game is all about.”

Running back Lazavier Evans was the first one to break through. The third-string back burst through the defense breaking several tackles on the way and was off to the races with a 60-yard touchdown to put the Jackets on the board with 8 minutes left. After a defensive stand, Peyton Rodgers kicked a 33-yard field goal through the uprights for another score to cut it to 17-10 with 5 minutes left.

SHS stopped the Wildcats again defensively on the next drive thanks to defensive end Ryan Johnson and defensive back Myles Stone. Khiry Gee made things interesting on the ensuing drive when he caught a one-handed pass from 26 yards out and scored to cut the game to one point, but the extra point was bobbled and the lead stayed for Louisville, which ran out the clock on the next drive.

There wasn’t much for Jones to be upset about post game, especially on the defensive side of the football. Starkville gave up just 18 yards of total offense against Louisville’s first unit and negative 3 yards rushing in the two quarter set.

The SHS offense had 200 yards of total offense with 118 yards rushing led by Evans, who had eight carries for 86 yards and a score.

Ryan Johnson had six tackles and two tackles for loss, Ty Johnson had six tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss and the defensive unit had nine tackles for loss as a squad. The Jackets also broke up four passes.
Starkville now puts its full arsenal together on Friday night when Noxubee County comes to town.

Jones believes his team will be ready.

“I’m expecting 100 percent focus, each and every day,” Jones said. “They understand that we have to come out and play well. Noxubee County is a good football team so we just have to do our job and do the little things right. I’m just looking forward to competing and kicking off the season.”