By DANNY P. SMITH
The Lanier Bulldogs welcomed the Starkville Yellowjackets to Class 5A, Region 2, District 6 with gifts Friday night.
Starkville recovered four fumbles and recovered a blocked punt to defeat Lanier 53-13 in its first game in the new division.
The Jackets got three of the fumble recoveries and the blocked punt recovery in the first 9 minutes of the first quarter to build a 28-0 lead at Yellowjacket Stadium.
SHS coach Jamie Mitchell was happy to get the win, but was anxious to see the film to see where improvements needed to be made before next week's home region game against Provine.
"It was hard to evaluate against that, but a win is a win and it puts us 1-0 in the division," Mitchell said. "Hopefully, we can find some things we can evaluate our kids on. There are some things we need to get better on.
"It won't be this way next Friday because Provine will be a whole different match. We're glad to get it behind us. It's a good home win.
"There are some things we need to get better on."
It didn't take the Jackets long to get points after Juwan Johnson recovered the first fumble at the Bulldogs 28-yard line. After two completed passes by quarterback Gabe Myles to Preston Baker and Jimmy Saulsberry, Stanley Higgins scored the first of his three first-half touchdowns with a 7-yard run with 9:15 remaining in the first quarter.
Lanier only ran two offensive plays before losing the football again and Starkville's Eric Rogers recovered again at the 28-yard line. The Jackets went three plays and finished it off with another Higgins run of 4 yards for the score at the 7:03 mark of the first quarter.
Higgins was glad to be able to stick in his two short touchdown runs after the defense did its part by getting turnovers.
"Our defense did a great job so I knew we had to step it up our offense," Higgins said. "We started out with a 0-0 division record so we knew we had a clean plate. It's a brand new start so we wanted to be 1-0."
Starkville increased its lead to 21-0 with 4:29 left in the first quarter after Kelvin Young recovered a blocked punt at the 1-yard line. Baker crossed the goal line on the next play.
The Jackets scored one more time before the end of the opening quarter when Ladorious Pittman scooped up a loose football and return it 29 yards to paydirt.
Lanier showed it could return a fumble as well when Markeith Williams took it 52 yards to cut the score to 28-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Starkville had the only points of the second quarter when Myles tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Higgins. The extra point was missed and the Jackets held a 34-7 halftime lead.
The second half scores for SHS were a 50-yard pass from Myles to Devin Mitchell, a 16-yard run by Darius Grayer, and a 75-yard run by Ladorious Pittman.
"I was really glad to get those guys in the game," Jamie Mitchell said of sophomores Grayer and Pittman. "They work so hard and it was great to get them some touches. Ladorious and Darius Grayer are good players and both of them are going to make some plays for us. It's always great because those guys work so hard."
Pittman had 103 yards rushing on three carries for the Jackets and is the first running back to rush for over 100 yards in a game this season.
"It felt good," Pittman said about his effort. "I give credit to my offensive line because they blocked for me. I'm just a sophomore and I'm going to try and get better and better."
Baker added 53 yards rushing on six carries for Starkville and had two receptions for 66 yards. Myles completed 7-of-11 pass attempts for 155 yards.
The Jackets had 390 yards of total offense as a team.
Starkville, which improved its overall record to 3-2, has one more 7:30 p.m. kickoff when Provine comes to town next Friday for homecoming.