By DANNY P. SMITH
There's a chance for the big play whenever Starkville High School's Devin Mitchell touches the football.
Such was the case Friday night at Yellowjacket Stadium when Mitchell caught a pass from quarterback Gabe Myles and raced 91 yards for a touchdown with 1:37 remaining in the second quarter against the Callaway High School Chargers.
It was the third longest pass play in SHS history and gave the Jackets a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
After taking a 28-7 lead in the third quarter, the Jackets ended up holding on for a 35-21 victory in the Class 5A, Region 2 encounter.
Mitchell finished the night with four catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns, but was quick not to accept all of the credit.
"It all started with the line and I couldn't do anything without them," Mitchell said. "I give all the credit to them. They block for me and I produce for them. That's what I'm there to do. They block for me and I'll do what I've got to do."
Starkville remained undefeated at the top of the region standings at 6-0 and improved to 8-2 overall.
"This was a huge game for us," Mitchell said. "Callaway said they wanted to come in our house and be the ones to upset us so we'll drop down in the playoffs. We want to win next week so we'll have the first two rounds here. We want home-field advantage in the playoffs."
It didn't take long for Mitchell to find the end zone for the Jackets against the Chargers.
After Preston Baker returned a punt to the 19-yard line for Starkville, Myles tossed a pass to Mitchell in the flat on the first offensive play from scrimmage. Mitchell ran the rest of the way for the touchdown with 10:16 remaining in the first quarter.
Myles and Baker hooked up again for the 91-yard play later in the quarter.
"That's a quarterback's dream," Myles said of having Mitchell. "You throw it short and he'll do the rest. I want to thank my offensive line for giving me the time to do it."
Myles completed 11-of-18 pass attempts for 280 yards and the two touchdowns to Mitchell.
When Jamie Mitchell became the coach of the Jackets in 2010, he inherited Devin Mitchell and hasn't wasted any time getting him involved in the offense.
Devin Mitchell showed some flashes of being a playmaker last season, but has really come on strong lately for Starkville. He now has 26 catches this season for 652 yards and eight touchdowns.
"He's been huge for the last month," Jamie Mitchell said. "He's developed into such a weapon and makes plays out of the backfield, makes plays catching and the kicking game. He's been really big for us."
Even though Callaway scored a touchdown with an 8-yard run by Jabari Woodcox at the end of the first quarter, the Yellowjackets played well enough defensively to secure a 21-7 lead at halftime. Stanley Higgins' first carry of the game for SHS went for 7 yards and a touchdown with 1:19 left in the second quarter.
The Jackets used a 69-yard drive on 12 plays to open the second half and extended the margin to 28-7 on a 5-yard run by Mitchell with 6:13 remaining in the third quarter.
A pair of 1-yard quarterback sneaks by T.J. Washington brought the Chargers to within 28-21, but a 3-yard run by Baker at the 5:13 mark of the fourth quarter put the game on ice for Starkville.
The SHS defense had senior moments early and late in the first half.
Eric Rogers and Latajah Bush got sacks on the first defensive series for the Jackets, then Cory Cannon and Dennis Ware also got in on the act in the first quarter, and Stanley Childs intercepted Callaway quarterback T.J. Washington near the end of the second half.
"We got challenged defensively more than we've been challenged in a while and we needed that," Jamie Mitchell said. "I thought we fought through some adversity and made some plays when we had to."
The other SHS seniors playing in their final home regular season game are J.B. Barriare, Eddie Brown, Michael Newman, Daniel Fumo, Scotie Pittman, Kelvin Young, Murphy Buckner, Darae Glenn, Deon Jesse and Don Wilson.
The Jackets look to complete an undefeated regular season in the region with a win in next week's game against Neshoba Central in Philadelphia.