Game of the Week: Noxubee County at Starkville

Chris Jones

Staff Writer

There’s a multitude of story lines to cover when talking about the Starkville and Noxubee County football rivalry.

The Tigers and Yellow Jackets are less than 40 miles apart and many of the players and people of the community are family and friends. Starkville coach Chris Jones is about as entrenched as anyone as a former Tiger player. Last season saw him start his SHS tenure with a 43-3 victory over his former team. Despite all of that, he said that he doesn’t treat the game any differently than the others he coaches.  

“To me, this game is just like any other game that we play,” Jones said. “I understand the rivalry having played in it and know how intense it is for people in Starkville and Noxubee County, but as a coach, we treat every game the same.”

Though the Jackets lead the all-time series 21-6, it’s been a much more competitive rivalry over the last few years. Noxubee has won five of their six games since 2009. Coincidentally, that’s been the timeline of the Tigers’ state championship runs as they’ve won five titles during that stretch, four of them coming from coach Tyrone Shorter.

Shorter was an assistant for the Tigers when Jones played during his time and he and Jones still talk often and trade thoughts. That hasn’t happened this week.

“Tyrone and I are close friends and he was my coach and mentor," Jones said. "I learned a lot from him and we cheer for each other most of the year. In this game, though, I want to beat him and we want to beat Noxubee County. We’ll be friends when it’s over.”

Both teams are coming off of trips to the state title game. Noxubee County won its third Class 4A State championship in four years last year and Starkville dropped a tough contest to Pearl in the Class 6A championship.
The SHS players have remembered that moment all summer and are ready for the road to redemption.

“I think that we’re ready to go,” Jones said. “Last year I wasn’t pleased with the way that we came out in that game, but I attribute that to being their first game in a new system. Everyone should be ready to go now and I think our guys are prepared.”

Leading the way for the Jackets this year will be running back Rodrigues Clark, who eclipsed 1,700 yards last year on the ground. SHS is also working with a new quarterback as sophomore Luke Altmyer takes over and Malik Brown slides to receiver.

Starkville will always hang its hat on the defensive side of the football, however, and it returns all of the major pieces. The defensive line proves to be one of the most dangerous parts of the team with senior defensive end Jalil Clemons leading the way.

“Our front seven is nasty," Clemons said. "We’re the best in the state and we’re coming,” Clemons said. “We’re working hard so we expect to dominate in the game.”

By 7 p.m. Friday evening, the stands at Yellow Jacket stadium are sure to be packed with the fences holding a few fans in front of them as well. It starts what the players hope will be a season to remember.

“This is my senior year," Clemons said. "We’ve got to come out in this game and make a statement for the whole state of Mississippi, 6A and the Golden Triangle. This is a statement game.”