By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Starkville High School left Class 5A football on Saturday night with a really nice parting gift – a state championship trophy.
The Yellow Jackets, who will move up to 6A next season, defeated Pascagoula 28-11 in the MHSAA’s Classic 5A title game at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Starkville already has a nice home for the gold football – a special wooden pedestal built to house it in the middle of the locker room. It was constructed after the team started the season 1-3.
“We’ve got a ready-made stand for it,” Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell said, then smiled. “This is kind of where Starkville’s supposed to be. We hope to continue to keep pressing.”
Starkville (12-3), which led 21-11 entering the fourth quarter, sealed the victory on a 1-yard QB sneak by Gabe Myles to cap an 8-play, 83-yard drive.
Defensive back Johnny Smith intercepted three passes in the fourth quarter for a Yellow Jackets defense that kept Pascagoula (11-3) out of the end zone.
“Johnny’s been a great player for us all year,” Mitchell said.
The Yellow Jackets survived a sluggish, turnover-plagued third quarter that saw Pascagoula score eight points – six on 33 and 28-yard field goal by Grant Warren and two on a safety – to cut their lead to 10 points.
Starkville used big plays to take a 21-3 halftime lead.
Pascagoula charged ahead 3-0 on Warren’s 43-yard field goal with 7:52 remaining in the first quarter.
The Yellow Jackets answered with a 68-yard, nine-play drive that ended with a TD-producing trick play. Myles fired a 6-yard pass to Princeton Jones, who lateralled to a trailing Darius Grayer. He then traveled the final 15 yards to the end zone.
Preston Baker, who rushed for 111 yards on 18 carries, scored on a 4-yard run with 5:18 left in the second quarter to give Starkville a 14-3 lead.
Jackets’ linebacker David Fair Jr. returned an intercepted pass 44 yards to the Pascagoula 1-yard line with 38 seconds remaining in the half to set up the third TD, a 1-yard run by Myles.
Myles rushed for 42 yards and passed for 82 yards, connecting on 9 of 14 passes.