Controlled environment: Jackets roll over Rams in Class 6A, Region 2 opener

KJ Lawrence, left, breaks into the clear for the Starkville Yellow Jackets on Friday night.

Staff Writer

Chris Jones has a goal for his Starkville Yellow Jackets.

He wants his team to get better every single week. Jones might have a bit of a problem though. It’s going to be awfully tough for the Jackets to improve upon their Friday night performance.

Starkville opened up Class 6A, Region 2 play on Friday against Provine and from the opening kickoff onward, it was an absolutely dominant showing. The Jackets throttled the Rams 63-12 and controlled both sides of the football all night long. Don’t try and tell Jones though that Starkville can’t top their impressive showing.

“We still have a lot to improve upon and a lot of stuff to clean up,” Jones said. “It’s kind of easy to overlook little stuff when you have nights like this, but it’s like even when we score, we missed an assignment or something. There is always room for improvement.”

With a critical eye, Jones can find plenty to work on. However, the big picture on Friday looked just fine for the Jackets (5-0, 1-0).

Offensively, running back Rodrigues Clark rushed for 89 yards and two scores. He also caught three passes for 16 yards and a touchdown.

Quarterback Luke Altmyer completed 11 of his 15 pass attempts for 159 yards and two scores.

Even the Starkville backups got in on the act. Second team signal caller NyJal Johnson threw a pair of touchdown passes.

Running backs Amarion Howard and K.J. Lawrence combined to rush for 127 yards and a touchdown.

Jones liked what he saw from his offense, which racked up 444 total yards and averaged 11.1 yards per play. He couldn’t help but nitpick a little still.

“When they got the chance to make plays, they did,” Jones said. “They missed a few reads though.

“It’s just little stuff like that we have to get better on.”

Starkville’s defense was arguably more impressive than its offense. The Jackets limited the Rams (2-3, 0-1) to only 129 yards. Most of that total came after halftime. Starkville gave up just 34 yards over the first two quarters.

The foundation of it all was a familiar source – the Starkville defensive line. Jaylan Ware led the way with six tackles. He had a sack and two tackles for loss. Jail Clemons chipped in with five tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss. Zach Edwards had four tackles, a sack and two tackles for loss.

The Jacket front was absolutely smothering.

“They did what they’re supposed to do,” Jones said. “They created havoc. They pressured the quarterback and got hits on the quarterback. At the end of the day, that’s what they’re supposed to do. We’ve got a good group up front. Anything less than that, I’d be disappointed to be honest.”

Edwards said it was just business as usual for the Jacket line.

“I think our defensive line played really good,” Edwards said. “Basically, we’ve created a bond I don’t think anyone can break. Once we get on the field together, we play together. I don’t think there’s anyone that can stop us.”

If Starkville performs as it did on Friday, Edwards is likely right. It will be tough to top the Jackets on a night when everything clicks.

Northwest Rankin will get the next chance. Starkville will hit the road to face the Cougars next week. Before then, don’t expect Jones or the Jackets to be satisfied with their Friday night win. They’re proud of it for sure. Yet there’s still so much to do in Starkville’s eyes.

“I’m happy that we won, but at the end of the day, we have to stay humble, stay hungry and keep pressing forward," Jones said.