Sting after the storm: Yellow Jackets beat Tigers to start year

Staff Writer

Severe thunderstorms blew through Starkville on Friday night ahead of the Noxubee County and Starkville High School’s season opener and tried to douse the fever pitch building over the game.

Fans on both sides waited patiently as the storms blew through for over an hour delay and the players cooked their emotions in the locker room. By the time they were let loose and allowed on to the field, it was as if the weather did nothing but fuel the fire.

That translated over to the turf at Yellow Jacket Stadium as the Tigers and Yellow Jackets brought their own thunder on the defensive side of he football. It would be SHS adding the lightning to its own storm as they kept Noxubee’s offense locked down and sealed a 30-6 win to begin the year.

“Despite the circumstances, I thought we came out and played well," Jacket head coach Chris Jones said. "I feel like the weather had us down a little bit but for us to have success early on, defense will carry us. We’ve got some guys on defense that can play ball and they did (Friday).”

The Starkville defense lived up to its offseason projections out of the gates as the front of Jalil Clemons, Jaylan Ware, Ryan Johnson, Zach Edwards and others caused major issues for the Tigers. It helped secure two interceptions from Justice Robinson and Khiry Gee in the first half and got momentum building.

Linebacker Ty Johnson gave the defense a boost as well with his team-high nine tackles and one tackle for loss. Ware was disruptive in the middle with seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss and Clemons led the team with two tackles for loss as the team racked up nine total.

“Coach has us balling together as a unit,” the senior Jacket defensive tackle Ware said. “We were ready to get back after we lost in the state championship. We’re the best defense in the state and the country.”

That transferred over to offense where Luke Altmyer began to go to work in his first career start. Altmyer threw an 18-yard touchdown to Rufus Harvey in the first quarter and another 26-yard pass to Gee in the second as SHS held the 14-0 lead.

After the defense got some points of its own after pinning Noxubee in its own end zone and forcing a safety on a bad snap, Rodrigues Clark made his appearance.

The senior running back had been flirting with the big play all night when he burst through the secondary for a 40-yard score and 23-0 lead. K.J. Lawrence got in on the fun with a 49-yard run of his own on the next possession to the 1 and Nyjal Johnson finished with the touchdown run for the 30-0 lead going into the final quarter.

Altmyer was dealing with cramps in the second half that limited his play, but he was efficient in his first half going 11-of-15 passing for 124 yards and two scores.

“I think he did a great job of being a quarterback,” Jones said of Altmyer. “He took care of the football and, to me, that’s what a good team needs. You don’t have to have a quarterback to run around and make every play. Hopefully, he’ll continue to get better.”

The Jackets had 388 yards of total offense with 236 of those coming on the ground. Clark rushed 16 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. The SHS defense added three sacks to go along with its big night behind the line of scrimmage and the Jackets held Noxubee to 108 total yards with 28 rushing.

The Little Egg Bowl is the next order of business as Starkville takes on Oxford on the road next weekend. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. as SHS defends its trophy against the Chargers.