Starkville embraces underdog role

By James Jones/The Sun Herald (MCT)

JACKSON – Starkville enters the Class 5A state championship game with a chip on its shoulder.

The Yellow Jackets (12-2) are considered by some an underdog in Saturday night’s 5A title showdown against Picayune at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Picayune (12-2) had spent part of the season as Class 5A’s top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll, while Starkville steadily improved as the season progressed.

“It motivates us,” Yellow Jackets defensive tackle Erik Rogers said. “Our own fans doubted us before the season, but now they’re on the bandwagon.”

Starkville linebacker Dennis Ware, who has a team-leading 112 total tackles, credited teamwork for the Yellow Jackets’ run to the 5A finals.

“Everybody doubted us at the beginning,” Ware said. “This team is very confident and believe in each other. We’re motivated to win a state championship.”

West Point was favored to win its third straight 5A title, while the Yellow Jackets were in a rebuilding mode. Starkville captured the Region 2-5A championship.

“We’re a junior and sophomore team,” Yellow Jackets coach Jamie Mitchell said. “I’m very surprised that we made it to the championship game. It’s been a dream for us.”

Defense is the Yellow Jackets’ strength, but quarterback Gabe Myles will be ready to step up. The junior has rushed for 849 yards and 10 touchdowns, while passing for 1,867 yards and 19 scores.