September 26, 2009 10:06:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- The Starkville High School football team used a stingy effort from its defense Friday night to beat DeSoto Central 9-3 for its first victory of the season.
Starkville (1-4, 1-0 Class 6A, Region 1, District 2) allowed less than 100 yards total and 1 yard rushing to win the district opener for both teams at Yellow Jacket Field.
"I''ve got a happy group of defensive coaches," Starkville High coach Bill Lee said. "They stayed at it and laid it on the line for us. You win as a team but sometimes one part of the team will pull that rope a little farther. The defense refused to lose tonight, and I''m real proud of them."
Starkville built an early 9-0 lead on the rain-soaked field and its defense dominated from there, putting an endless amount of pressure on quarterback Ray Price.
The Yellow Jackets sacked Price (13-for-20) five times and hit him many more times, causing a fumble and forcing an interception.
"I always like to say our front four can ''penetrate and dominate''," Lee said. "Our defensive line played great tonight and the ends were outstanding. Players like Craig Armstead, Adonnis Scales, and Dennis Thompson all had great performances and stepped up."
Starkville scored first on a poor snap from center on a Jake Wilcox punt that resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead.
The Yellow Jackets drove 43 yards on six plays on the ensuing drive. Justin Rogers'' 7-yard touchdown run made it 9-0 at the end of the first quarter.
"We had a good start on offense," Lee said. "We ran some things we thought would work. We hit some passes and made some plays early. I wish we could have connected on some later opportunities on a couple of fade patterns to extend the lead, though. We are still forced to nickel and dime teams down the field."
The Jaguars (3-2, 0-1) never had any offensive rhythm. Coming off a 63-0 victory against Westwood (Tenn.), DeSoto Central saw its three-game winning streak come to a screeching halt.
The Jaguars failed to move the ball past midfield in the opening half.
"We just could not open up the offense," said DeSoto Central coach Chris Purnell said. "I did not expect to run it up their throats or anything, but to rush for nothing is terrible. Their front four beat our front five all night. We tried to open with some passes to open the running game, but you got to complete those passes."
Price had a 128 yards offense (112 passing, 16 rushing).
The Jaguars'' defense made things interesting in the fourth quarter.
Following a Starkville punt, DeSoto Central cut the deficit to 9-3 with 9 minutes, 12 seconds left on a five-play drive, highlighted by a 38-yard Joe Weatherly reception.
"I thought we had a chance, but we could not keep the offense on the field," Purnell said. "We hit a pass here and there but could not sustain anything."
DeSoto Central had two opportunities for potential game-winning drives, but Starkville forced punts on both and milked the final three minutes with its running game.
Starkville will look to make it two in a row Friday when it plays host to Tupelo (1-4, 1-0), while Desoto Central will travel to Horn Lake.