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Williams, West Point run over Starkville

 

Matthew Stevens

 

WEST POINT -- It was clear from the opening minutes of this annual rivalry game that the West Point High School football team's running attack was just too dominant for Starkville. 

 

The Yellow Jackets put eight and nine defensive players near the line of scrimmage in an attempt to stop the run, but it didn't matter as the Green Wave rolled up 488 rushing yards en route to a 55-33 victory Friday night in a rematch of last year's Class 5A North State title game. 

 

In the last two regular-season games between the programs, West Point has outscored Starkville 102-55 and rushed for 823 yards. 

 

"They have a North Half trophy in their case from last year we still think belongs to us," West Point quarterback Josh Ewing said. "We were mad coming into the game, and it feels so good to get a win one more time on Starkville." 

 

Ewing had five touchdowns and 120 total yards (64 rushing, 56 passing). The 185-pound junior said Friday the weapons behind him in the West Point backfield didn't allow Starkville to have enough players to account for his athleticism. Ewing executed a non-traditional passing game to start the game to set up the physically crushing rushing attack between the tackles. Ewing averaged 14 yards per completion and had two touchdown passes. 

 

"Think about my job every day in practice and on Fridays in games," Ewing said. "All I have to do is make sure I get the ball to an incredibly talented athlete. It's the best job in the world. Sometimes tonight I looked around and realized, 'Hey, I'm wide open with nobody around me.' " 

 

Senior tailback and Mississippi State University verbal commitment Aeris Williams finished with a game-high 246 yards on 23 carries and a two touchdowns. 

 

"My offensive line and lead blocker make my life so much more easier every week," Williams said. "If we play like this week every week on offense, we'll be tough to beat. This is fun." 

 

Williams had 108 yards on his first seven carries. He has 440 yards this season against Class 6A powers Starkville and South Panola. 

 

"Starkville and South Panola are good teams, and he just has run over both of them giving us a chance to win," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "I may have to remind him we don't want him to be at his best right now but in the Class 5A playoffs." 

 

It took Starkville (1-2) more than 15 minutes to earn its initial first down. By that point, West Point (1-1) led 21-0. Through the first quarter, West Point outgained Starkville 181-13. The Yellow Jackets' only attempt at a comeback came thanks to senior A.J. Brown, who caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Princeton Jones. Two plays later, Brown returned an interception 41 yards to make it 21-13 with 3 minutes, 46 second left in the half. 

 

Twenty consecutive points after halftime turned Starkville's attempt to shift the momentum into a blowout victory for the host Green Wave that left Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell searching for answers. 

 

Touchdown runs by Williams, Ewing, and junior Lacequiu Starks gave the Green Wave a 49-19 lead with 36 seconds left in the third quarter. Starks, who has emerged as a change-of-pace runner to Williams, had a career high 164 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. 

 

"I apologize to everyone from Starkville that witnessed this tonight because that was embarrassing," Mitchell said. "This is our football team, and I'm responsible for their performance, and we're just not a very good football team right now. That falls directly on me." 

 

Starkville committed 13 penalties for 132 yards. Many of the penalties came on pre-snap mistakes. The Yellow Jackets also had only 1.97 yards per carry against a defense carrying the burden of 55-33 loss in their season opener at South Panola. 

 

"We're just not a very good football team to say the least," Mitchell said. "I don't know what's going on." 

 

Brown, a sophomore, had 96 yards on two catches to lead Starkville, which will look to stop its two-game losing streak next week when it plays host to Southaven. West Point will take on its third consecutive Class 6A opponent -- Columbus -- on Friday. 

 

Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens. 

 

 

 

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