Big plays crucial for Starkville in win over Tupelo

STARKVILLE – Jaquez Johnson left no doubt in Tupelo’s mind that he’s Starkville’s go-to guy.
The Yellowjackets’ senior quarterback passed for four touchdowns and ran for another Friday night to hand Tupelo its first loss of the season, a 47-14 decision in a Division 1-6A matchup.
“Jaquez played exceptionally well, but that’s what we expect him to do,” said first-year Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell. “Our big plays killed Tupelo. Turnovers also played a big part.”
Johnson, who completed 8 of 13 passes for 225 yards had TD passes for 5, 30, 53 and 70 yards. He also rushed for 41 yards and scored the Yellowjackets’ final points in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run.
Two Golden Wave fumbles and an interception led to all three Starkville touchdowns in the second half.
“That’s hard to overcome, especially against a team like Starkville,” Tupelo coach David Bradberry said of his team’s miscues. “Starkville’s a good football team. We helped them a little bit. They also made some big plays.
“I’m not sure we were very prepared.”
Tupelo (4-1, 1-1) returns to action next week in a division game at Southaven.
Starkville (4-2, 2-0) kept Tupelo’s go-to guy, sophomore running back Ashton Shumpert, silent most of the night. He finished with 36 yards on 13 carries after coming in averaging 129 yards per game.
“We were able to contain with seven in the box; that’s hard to do,” said Mitchell, who coached Shumpert last season at Itawamba AHS. “Our defense has played outstanding all year long.”
Tupelo finished with 233 yards total offense.
Johnson passed the Golden Wave silly in the first half when he completed 7 of 9 passed for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He added 37 yards rushing.
He gave the Yellowjackets a 14-0 lead in the first quarter with a 30-yard pass to Shaquille Hill and a 70-yard pass and run to tight end Martavious Foster.
Tupelo answered Starkville’s second touchdown with a 3-yard run by quarterback Luke Hobson. A 55-yard kick return by Terrell Pinson gave the Golden Wave good field position at the Starkville 29.
Garrett Smith scored on a sweep with 6:46 remaining in the second quarter to push Starkville’s lead to 20-7. He finished with 129 yards rushing and scored on a 16-yard run in the third quarter.
“Garrett Smith continues to fly under the radar,” Mitchell said. “He’s a talented running back.”
Tupelo reached the Yellowjackets’ 16 on its next possession, but the march stalled and failed to produce any points when Raines’ 36-yard field goal attempt sailed to the right.
Starkville took a 26-7 halftime lead with 11 seconds left in the second quarter when Bryce Henderson caught a tipped pass intended for Hill and sprinted to paydirt to complete a 53-yard scoring play.
Starkville finished the half with 314 yards total offense to Tupelo’s 68. Shumpert, who came in averaging 129 yards per game, was held to 17 yards on 11 carries in the first half.
Jakarta Agnew caught the 5-yard TD pass from Johnson in the third quarter for the Yellowjackets while Tenerious Montgomery scored the Wave’s second TD on a 2-yard run in the fourth quarter.

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Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal