SHS takes family mindset into Little Egg Bowl

Little Egg Bowl trophy

Staff Writer

Before the season, Starkville High School head football coach Chris Jones had a simple bracelet made for his players to remind them when times get tough that they’re one unit.

The black bracelet with yellow letters reads, “11 Brothers.” Senior linebacker Ty Johnson wears it proudly and tries to put the meaning into daily use. When quarrels happen between teammates or a mistake might come up, that bracelet is a constant reminder.

“We’ve got a family," Johnson said. "It’s really a brotherhood. Sometimes we’ll be down, but someone picks it up in practice. Someone might get mad in practice, but we’ve got to take care of our brothers. It’s really good.”

The brotherhood was a big reason the Yellow Jackets stayed so upbeat prior to their game last Friday night against rival Noxubee County. The two teams were sent to the locker rooms, out of the thunderstorm, for over an hour waiting for kickoff.

Instead of getting dismayed or bored that the season had been delayed, the team stayed constant. SHS came out onto the field and kept that same excitement for kickoff and proceeded to run away with a 30-6 victory for the 1-0 start for the year.

“I thought the way that we responded (to the delay) was impressive,” Jones said. “It was better than last year’s first game even though we had less points. I was proud that we did our job when it mattered. I think we got better this week for our upcoming opponent.”

While the defense swarmed for a huge night that included 10 tackles from Johnson, four team sacks and a couple of interceptions, the offense was productive as well. Starkville rushed for 236 yards and threw for another 152 in the game as Jones said the Jackets were able to give many playmakers the football.

Four different players threw passes and eight different players caught the ball and ran the ball respectively. Rodrigues Clark led the way, of course, with his 16 carries, 109 yards and a touchdown. It was the 14th time in his three years that he’s eclipsed 100 yards and he’s done it in five-straight games counting back to last season.

He wasn’t alone, though, as several others got into the fray on the ground and through the air.

“I was impressed with how our quarterbacks spread the ball around,” Jones said. “That’s going to help us in the future to be a more balanced team because you can’t just key in on who gets the ball by watching film. I think that’s going to make us a better offense.”

Jones also liked how his sophomore quarterback handled things in his first-career start.

Luke Altmyer dealt with cramps in the second half of the game that limited his production and playing time the rest of the way, but his first half was sparkling. Altmyer was 11-of-15 for 124 yards and two beautiful touchdown passes to get SHS going in the first half. Jones is excited to see what’s in store for this weekend.

“I thought Luke did a great job of making decisions until he cramped up," Jones said. "A lot of it was his adrenaline because he was so excited. He text me that morning about how excited he was to finally play, but I wanted him to calm down and relax. That was his first big game, but I thought he handled it well and he’s only going to get better.”

With the Jackets playing their revenge tour of 2018 week-by-week, the next stop is Oxford for the Little Egg Bowl. SHS has owned the series recently, but the Chargers have been competitive, including a 28-21 double overtime victory at home last season for the Jackets.

Jones has prepared his team to have their brotherhood mindset ready to go into enemy territory and Starkville won’t be taking Oxford lightly. The Chargers are looking to complete their first full game of the year after their game against Warren Central was ruled a no contest last week in the third quarter in a storm.

“Last year they played us tooth and nail and I think we can expect that against this year,” Jones said. ‘They didn’t get a chance to finish their game so hopefully we can take advantage of having a little more experience in a full game.”

Game time Friday night at Oxford is set for 7 p.m. The game can be heard on Supertalk 100.9 in the Golden Triangle.