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Starkville gets best of Columbus in renewal of rivalry

 

From Special Reports

 

The Columbus High School football team had its Class 6A, Region 2 opener against Starkville High right where it wanted Friday night. 

 

Unfortunately, the Falcons had to play the second half. 

 

Starkville (3-2, 1-0 region) pulled away from a 7-7 halftime tie with four scoring drives that pushed it to a 35-13 victory at Falcon Field. 

 

Behind a monster night from quarterback Princeton Jones, the Yellow Jackets ran the read option to near perfection in the final half. 

 

Starkville broke the tie when Jones found Raphael Leonard for a 6-yard touchdown. Minutes later, the duo hooked up from 24 yards. 

 

"We didn't stay disciplined and we didn't stay on our assignments in the second half," Columbus linebacker Damian Moore said. "It is frustrating because we are a lot better team than we showed. There were no surprises. They took it right at us." 

 

Columbus (2-3, 0-1) closed within eight on two Anthony Maleta field goals. However, the Falcons couldn't close the gap and were held without an offensive touchdown for the first time this season. 

 

"We got a little bit of the big head (after a 41-14 victory against West Point two weeks ago)," Columbus senior running back/quarterback Kevin Jackson said. "I think you saw tonight what happens when a team comes out not really ready to play. We weren't mentally sharp like we need to be. We don't have a lot of room for error. Everything has to be in place for us to be successful. 

 

"There are six region games, and it's not like we are bad a team. There will be another day and we will come out and play a lot better." 

 

Jackson and Trace Lee shared quarterback duties for the Falcons. 

 

n Heritage Academy 23, Oak Hill Academy 14: At Columbus, Austin Fitch and Logan Bell connected on two touchdown passes, and Hunter Anderson added the clinching score to help the Patriots survive the Raiders. 

 

Last season, Heritage Academy beat Oak Hill Academy 42-0 in Columbus en route to its Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, District II state title. 

 

This season, the Patriots (5-1) received 106 yard rushing by Anderson, who scored on a 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, 

 

Heritage Academy Austin Fitch as 12 of 21 for 153 yards. He threw touchdowns of 16 and 41 yards to Bell. 

 

Oak Hill Academy (3-3) received a 1-yard scoring run by Drake Riley and a 54-yard pass from Riley Pierce to Curt Huffman. 

 

n Starkville Academy 14, Winston Academy 0: At Starkville, the Volunteers celebrated Homecoming with a non-district victory against the Patriots. 

 

"We came in with a mind-set we needed to own the line of scrimmage, and I think we did a great job defensively," Starkville Academy senior lineman Tripp Janssen said. "We started off slow on offense, but in the second half I think we really took over." 

 

Starkville Academy (3-3) scored less than three minutes into the game. After a fumble recovery on a botched lateral pass attempt, Noah Heflin scored on a 3-yard touchdown run. 

 

From there, it was a defensive struggle with the Volunteers keeping the better of field position thanks to a dominating size advantaged on the lines. 

 

"Defensively, we just really played an outstanding ballgame against a very physical football team," Starkville Academy coach Jeff Terrill said. "I think the biggest part was we were able to come up with two big turnovers. One was to stop a drive and one was to set up a score." 

 

In the fourth quarter, Grant Wolfe scored on a 13-yard run, with Heflin keeping for the two-point conversion. 

 

n Oxford 30, West Point 20: At Oxford, For the first time in a decade, the Chargers can celebrate a victory against the Green Wave. 

 

Since 2004, except for the rare occasion in 2006 when the schools didn't meet, Oxford had its season marred by a regular-season or playoff defeat to West Point. Now Oxford coach Johnny Hill can breathe a slight sigh of relief that his team has changed the script. 

 

"We've never beaten them since I took this program back over, and it's a huge comfort to know we can and should do it because we'll see them again in the North Half playoffs," Hill said. 

 

The Chargers (5-0, 1-0 Class 5A, Region 1) built a 21-0 lead thanks to its big-play spread offense and a opportunistic defense that made West Point's power running game go east and west. 

 

Oxford didn't have to punt in the game thanks to a 466-yard showing. It also had 17 first downs by spreading out West Point defensive front and challenging the secondary with sophomore quarterback Jack Abraham. Abraham opened up the passing attack with a 77-yard strike to senior speedster Joey Walden to set up the first of two touchdown runs by Kenzie Phillips. 

 

Oxford, which shut out Lafayette last week, had a red-zone stop (inside the 20-yard line) and an interception that set up two more scores that helped it build a three-score cushion with 4 minutes, 29 seconds left in the half. 

 

"That 21-0 lead was so big for us mentally because we came into this game nervous, well, at least I did because all we'd heard was we had never beaten West Point," said Abraham, who was 12 of 30 for 227 yards. He had eight passes for 15 yards or more. 

 

"They were in man coverage all night, so it was really about getting them to buy the play-action fake and then putting a good ball out there for my receivers," Abraham said. "If I threw a good ball, I was confident they would be open all night, and they were." 

 

On a night he might have felt overshadowed by West Point tailback Aeris Williams at tailback, Phillips had 17 carries for 118 yards on 17 carries and two scores. 

 

Williams, a Mississippi State verbal commitment, had 34 carries for 161 yards and two touchdowns. His second score, with 7:06 seconds remaining helped West Point (2-3, 0-1) cut the deficit to 27-20. 

 

However, a lack of critical defensive stops and penalties prevented West Point from getting any closer. The Green Wave had 149 penalty yards, including 88 in the first half. 

 

"You can call a penalty on pretty much every play in this game and we had some called on us tonight," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "We didn't get any of the breaks tonight, and that's the bottom line. I thought our kids played hard, but we didn't have anything go our way." 

 

West Point will try to even its region record next week when it plays host to Clarksdale. 

 

n Pickens County (Ala.) 53, Aliceville (Ala.) 18: At Reform, Ala., A tight game got out of hand Friday night as running back Jermarcus Brown and the Tornadoes pulled way from the Yellow Jackets in the second half. Celebrating coach Patrick Plott's birthday, Pickens County (5-0), the top-ranked team in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 1A rankings, racked up big yards on offense and had an impressive showing from its defense. 

 

With under less than minutes to play in the first half and Pickens County leading 21-12, defensive back Steffon McCoy returned an interception 55 yards a the touchdown to make it 27-12. Two plays later, Brown got in on the action, intercepting a pass and weaving in and out of traffic for a 60-yard touchdown return. 

 

Leading 34-12 at halftime, Brown added three more touchdowns to seal the deal.

 

 

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