Game of the Week: No. 1 Jackets, No. 2 Green Wave meet in clash of titans

Starkville High School wide receiver Tonorris Brookins II, left, tries to catch the football while being defended by West Point during last year's meeting.

Staff Writer

All eyes across the state of Mississippi turn to Yellow Jacket Stadium in Starkville Friday night for the battle between the top two teams in the state.

No. 1 Starkville (2-0) and No. 2 West Point (2-0) will renew its rivalry for the 96th time in school history Friday night in a game that goes back to 1924. The two teams that are separated by 20 miles have celebrated a combined 15 state championships. The Green Wave have nine of those titles with four coming from head coach Chris Chambless.

He knows exactly what the rivalry means to both communities.  

“It’s West Point and Starkville,” Chambless said. “The rivalry goes back a long time and it’s not only good for this area, it’s good for Mississippi football. You can throw everything out the window, the game comes down to grit and guts. You’re going to get a lot better effort in practice and everyone has a pep in their step.”

West Point and Starkville have represented the north in their respective classifications in four of the last six state title games. While this game will be important for bragging rights between the Jackets and Green Wave, it’s not going to determine the direction that they both go.

Just two seasons ago, Starkville ran West Point out of Yellow Jacket Stadium with a 28-6 victory. The Jackets were 3-0 after that win before ending the season 7-4 and missing out on the playoffs. As for the Green Wave, they followed that up with 30 consecutive wins and back-to-back Class 5A State championships.

That 30-game winning streak is on the line Friday night at SHS and coach coach Chris Jones of the Jackets expects a hard fought game. That’s despite the Greenies losing over 30 seniors and big-time players like Terrance Cherry, Chris Calvert, Marcus Murphy and Jason Brownlee.

“In my opinion, we would never expect a drop off from West Point so we’re not going to take them for granted since they lost all of those seniors,” Jones said. “We know that there’s a great team over there so we’re going to be prepared and let the chips fall where they may.”

The Green Wave have handled their first two opponents fine with a 55-6 victory over Columbus and a 26-10 win over Louisville. A committee of running backs will filter in and out of the game as four players have carried over 10 times this year with none of them having more than 16.

Junior Dantariyus Cannon has shown the most explosiveness of the group with 11 carries for 194 yards while junior Jimothy Mays has 16 carries for 106 yards and Brandon Harris has 12 for 104. Kam Martin leads the team with four touchdowns and has 88 yards on 13 carries.

The defense is the strength of the team, however, as they’ve already racked up five interceptions in two games, 17 tackles for loss and six sacks.

It will be the battle of the defenses as Starkville believes its defense is the best in the state. The Jackets have 23 tackles for loss and seven sacks as Zach Edwards leads the charge with three. The Jackets have added three
interceptions to go along with it as the team has come out with a strong first two games with beat downs of Noxubee County and Oxford.

“Things are always better the second time around after you’ve had a chance to experience it," Jones said. "They’ve had a chance to experience us and we’ve had a chance to experience them. The system is also in and they know what to expect so they can go a little faster. Last year it was all new to them.”

After a rough night in West Point last season in a 28-3 loss, SHS has revenge in mind. The Jackets return running back Rodrigues Clark who sat out of that game last year and he’s been thinking about it since.

One of his main takeaways after an Athlete of the Week selection for his three-touchdown performance against Oxford is that he would be healthy for the West Point game. Clark is already up 217 yards and four scores in two games and he’s got options around him like Luke Altmyer at quarterback to keep heat off of his game.

Altmyer is 28-of-37 in two games with 331 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Clark is ready to get back on the field against the Greenies.

“We’re going to come out Friday and show them that we’re the Jackets,” Clark said of the West Point matchup. “They’re at our house and that plays another big role in the game.”

The game will be personal for four quarters, but both programs have as much respect for each other as could be had in a rivalry. Both will pull for the other the rest of thee season and hope that another trophy comes home for each.

For Chambless, it’s all about pride Friday night. The stands and the play on the field will reflect that.

“It’s a football community at both places,” Chambless said. “Athletics are the pride of both schools and the elementary schools see that and they want to be a part of that.”