COLUMBUS – Things were not going very well in the second half for Starkville High School quarterback Gabe Myles during Thursday night's spring football game against the Columbus Falcons.
After throwing nine-straight incompletions, Myles had every reason to wonder if things were ever going to click in the passing game for the Jackets.
Myles refused to let the negative feelings creep up and threw the winning touchdown pass with 23.3 seconds left in the game as Starkville won a 17-16 decision against Columbus.
The Falcons had just taken a 16-10 lead with a score at the 49.8-second mark, but Myles responded with a 23-yard completion to Princeton Jones and a 52-yard score to Jimmy Saulsberry. Kicker Charlie Henderson added the winning extra point kick.
It was important for Myles to keep playing even though the Jackets were struggling to make plays.
"I just had to keep my head up and move on to the next play because if you get your head down, you are not going to be around to make the big play when it comes time to make a play," Myles said.
He only had one explanation on the winning touchdown pass.
"It was all God. I thank Him," Myles said.
Myles finished the game by completing 8-of-24 pass attempts for 136 yards and one touchdown. He also had a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score in the first half.
Starkville football coach Jamie Mitchell was proud to see his junior-to-be signal caller keep his cool in the game.
"Gabe showed great leadership on that drive," Mitchell said. "He had a refuse-to-lose will. He's going to grow and Gabe is going to be a good quarterback. In the first game out against a very talented Columbus football team that will win a bunch of ballgames, I thought he did a great job of keeping his composure."
Myles tossed a 20-yard pass to Saulsberry to open the second quarter to get in a position to get his quarterback sneak for a touchdown with 11:17 showing on the clock.
On the next kickoff, the Jackets recovered the short kick on the 35-yard line, where Myles again went back to work. He completed three out of five passes for 21 yards to set up Henderson's 25-yard field goal.
Columbus scored 16 unanswered points in the second half to take the lead before Starkville pulled out the win late in a game that didn't have a spring-game-type of feel to it.
"Whatever they charged tonight, they got their money's worth," Mitchell said. "It's a spring game and doesn't matter very much whether you win or lose, but our big things was wanting to evaluate. That obviously meant more to the kids maybe than the coaching staff.
"You are glad to win a ballgame. I think we've answered a lot of questions and we'll take this film, critique it down to the last degree, find those guys that can play and try to move some folks around to see what we've got to do."
In junior varsity action, the Jackets out-scored the Falcons 14-0 with two touchdown passes from quarterback Michael Newman, one of 9 yards to Fontavious Smith and the other of 56 yards to Quavarious Robertson. Nigil Randle had a two-point conversion run for SHS.