By LEE ADAMS
MACON – Friday night's season opener for the Starkville Yellowjackets was hyped to be a close battle with the Noxubee County Tigers.
The game lived up to the hype, but did not end in favor of the Jackets as they fell 33-21.
With the scored tied 21-21, Starkville was denied a score by the Noxubee County defense in the fourth quarter.
"The ballgame was on the line down here with the score 21-21," said second year head coach of the Jackets Jamie Mitchell. "If we had got in right then, it would have been a different ball game."
The Tigers started the game with a long drive but the Jackets stopped the drive when Jermaine Gillespie batted down a pass at the line on fourth down. However, due to a Starkville penalty for having 12 men on the field, the Tigers got a second chance at fourth down.
An offside penalty was then called in the Jackets, giving the Tigers a first down. One play later, Antonio Ryland ran in from 1-yard out to give Noxubee County a 7-0 lead.
Their lead would be short-lived as Preston Baker returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and tie the game at 7-7.
With time winding down in the first quarter, Gabe Myles found Devin Mitchell downfield which resulted in a 78-yard touchdown reception. The Jackets would miss the extra point but led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Tigers put together a nine play drive to start the second quarter and capped it off with a five yard touchdown run by Ladarrell Hunt. After making the extra point, the Tigers held a 14-13 lead with 9:34 remaining in the first half.
On the ensuing drive, the Jackets were faced with a fourth and ten situation. Myles rolled out to his left and found Baker downfield. Baker then ran into the endzone completing the 30-yard touchdown play. Since they missed an extra point after their last score, the Jackets chose to go for two and Baker powered his way into the end zone to give Starkville a 21-14 lead.
The Jackets held their 21-14 lead through halftime and most of the third quarter, but as the game moved on, Starkville players began to cramp up.
With Myles and Baker spending time on the sidelines due to cramps, the Jackets offense couldn't find the end zone to extend their lead.
Late in the third, the Tigers took advantage of the sluggish Jackets and tied the game on a 1-yard run by Darrell Robinson.
The game remained tied at 21-21 as the game moved into the fourth quarter, but the Jackets were driving. Back up quarterback Michael Newman led Starkville down to the 1-yard line, with help of a 27- yard run by Baker.
After two sneak plays, Newman fumbled and the Tigers recovered at their own 3-yard line.
Despite the long field ahead of them, the Tigers needed only one play to find pay dirt as Hunt ran 97 yards to the end zone. The extra point was no good but the Tigers held a 27-21 lead with 9:23 remaining.
Starkville's offense couldn't find their way into the end zone again even with starting quarterback Myles returning to the game.
The Tigers put the finishing touches on the Jackets when Javancy Jones intercepted Myles' pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown. The pick six was the final score for Noxubee County.
The Jackets had a lot of young players playing in week one but Mitchell isn't using that as an excuse.
"We've got to get better," said Mitchell. "We're young at so many places but we're tired of talking about that. We have to grow up and make some plays."
Despite the loss, the Jackets got some big plays, but the defense wasn't able to stop the running game.
"I thought we were well beyond playing defense that way," said Mitchell. "We didn't think they could run the football against us but they proved us wrong."
Starkville will host Madison Central next Friday and kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.