By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
TUPELO – Starkville High may be missing six offensive players and one of its best men on defense due to injury, but the Yellow Jackets didn’t miss a beat against Tupelo on Friday night.
The Jackets used big plays in the first half to build a comfortable lead and held on to defeat Tupelo 28-0 at Golden Wave Stadium, Starkville’s fourth straight in the series.
With Dandy Dozen QB Gabe Myles still nursing a hurt ankle, sophomore Caleb Wilson had an impressive second career start behind center.
After totaling only 51 yards through the air last week at Madison Central, Wilson completed 8 of 12 passes for 172 yards – 139 of those in the first half – with three touchdowns.
“My team overall played better,” said Wilson. “Without the rain, I felt like I could throw the ball and do what I do best.”
Darius Grayer had 79 yards rushing, including a 56-yard second quarter TD, to lead the Jackets’ ground game. Overall, Starkville had 329 offensive yards.
Starkville’s defensive front kept Golden Wave (1-2) quarterbacks Thomas Harris and Alex Norwood on the move in the backfield. The Yellow Jackets got to the duo for five sacks netting 37 yards.
“We thought going in we could stop them and thought we had a big advantage on the defensive front” Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said. “We stopped the run but also harassed that quarterback all night and played great in the secondary.”
Harris found some holes in the second half and finished with 63 yards passing on 16 attempts, but Tupelo – the Daily Journal’s 3rd ranked large school – could not find the end zone.
“We’ve just got to protect better and all of the stuff that goes along with that, the whole shooting match,” Tupelo coach David Bradberry said. “I’m not surprised at how Starkville played. I’ve never seen a Starkville team that didn’t play like this.”
The Jackets (1-2) built a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter on back-to-back scoring receptions by Preston Baker from Wilson, the first a 71-yard strike down the middle of the field.
Trailing 21-0 at halftime, Tupelo’s defense forced Starkville into three straight three-and-outs to start the second half and keep the Wave in the contest.
But the Jackets put the game away in the fourth with Matt Fuller’s 16-yard TD catch.