October 7, 2012 1:11:17 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville High School football team used a determined and stifling defense to earn a 23-0 victory against Ridgeland High on Friday night in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 2 game.
Besieged by injuries, Starkville (4-3, 3-0 region) has relied on its defense in the past three games. The Yellow Jackets have two shutouts in that stretch, and have outscored region opponents 94-6.
"I didn't realize we had not given up a touchdown in our first two division games," Starkville coach Jamie Miller said. "This one makes it three in a row."
After watching the first quarter, Miller could tell his squad was ready. Starkville held Ridgeland to a three-and-out to begin the first quarter before the offense took over and scored on its second play. The defense responded on the Titans' second play of the next drive with an interception by senior cornerback Dondre Daily.
"That pick felt great," Daily said. "It was my first pick of the whole season. I dropped a couple, but it was great to finally get that first pick."
Daily's interception set up another touchdown and helped Starkville to score twice in the first five minutes. The defense did its part, holding Ridgeland to a 74 yards in the first half. The Titans didn't earn first down until late in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Starkville quarterback Gabe Myles fumbled on the Yellow Jackets' 21-yard line. Ridgeland recovered, but Starkville held the Titans to a 34-yard field goal attempt that Tre Taliaferro missed wide right.
Leading 20-0 in the third quarter, Starkville faked a punt on fourth down to extend a drive that fizzled out and ended quickly with a bad punt that gave Ridgeland possession at the Yellow Jackets' 40.
"We couldn't have given them more chances than we did in the second half," Miller said. "I was really frustrated with the second half, and I felt like we lost our edge offensively."
Ridgeland capitalized and marched to the 5. The Titans decided to go for the end zone on fourth down, and junior linebacker Taylor Johnston couldn't have been happier with their decision.
"I was happy as I don't know what," Johnston said. "We haven't given up a point during divisional play this year, so when I saw Ridgeland was going for it on fourth down, I knew they weren't going to get it."
The defense proved Johnston right, holding Ridgeland on a goal-line stand to send Johnston running off the field full of the sweet taste of a shutout victory.
"It was amazing," Johnston said. "I prayed before the game God would give us something great to do tonight, so I give all the credit to Him."