September 8, 2018 8:10:58 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
Starkville High School senior Rodrigues Clark celebrated his birthday Saturday.
Actually, the party started out of town one day earlier.
Clark rushed for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Starkville routed Golden Triangle area rival Columbus 72-6 in a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) contest played Friday night at Falcon Field.
"Once we were focused, we had a good night," Clark said. "When we play to our potential, we can dominate. The offensive line showed out. It led to a big night for the offense. We just wanted to keep the momentum going."
Clark was honored as a national player of the week last week after scoring three touchdowns in a win over then-No. 2 West Point.
In that victory, every yard for Clark was precious and the Yellow Jackets needed a dominating defense to beat their biggest rival.
Friday night was quite different.
Starkville finished with 523 total yards and scored on all but one possession.
The halftime lead was 45-0.
"The best thing was getting a lot of the reserves some playing time," Starkville coach Chris Jones said. "We really don't have that large a drop-off (from first team to second team). There are still a lot of things we need to clean up. We scored a lot of points, but we want to keep getting better."
Starkville (4-0) was held in check on the first possession. The Yellow Jackets drove 67 yards on 11 plays before Garin Boniol hit a 27-yard field goal.
The Yellow Jackets then used a short field for 46-yard drive.
Clark would then score back-to-back touchdowns from 3 and 54 yards out for a 17-0 lead.
Clark's second score kick-started a 35-point second quarter. The defense also got into the act with a 30-yard interception return by Justice Robinson.
Luke Altmyer hit Rufus Harvey for a 70-yard touchdown in the final minute of the first half.
"Things are beginning to click of this offense," Harvey said. "The main thing is remaining humble. We have to keep working hard in practice and listening to our coaches if we are going to reach out full potential."
Last season, Starkville finished second in the state. With a bulk of the starters returning on both offense and defense, this is clearly shaping up as a race with them in the role of favorites this season.
"There is a lot of confidence on this team," Clark said. "We enjoy practice. We enjoy working together as a team. We want to make this a special year."
The second-team also came up big for the Yellow Jackets with four scores against a semi-running clock.
Jones continued to run an up-tempo offense with little huddling. Ny'Jal Johnson hit 5 of 5 passes for 48 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Yellow Jackets also got rushing scores from Amariyon Howard, Lazavier Evans and KJ Lawrence.
"Saw a lot of things that you like (from the offense)," Jones said. "You always want to be growing."
Altmyer was 13 of 17 passing for 222 yards and a pair of scores. Sam Hunt, Joshua Aka, Jatavious Lawrence and Harvey has the pass-catching touchdowns.
On defense, Keyshawn Lawrence had a pair of fumble recoveries.
Starkville will now enjoy an open date before beginning defense of its MHSAA Class 6A, Region 2 championship with Provine at home.
"The region games are next," Clark said. "It's time to play any better so we can get where we want to go."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter