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Williams emerges as force for Starkville High's defense


Brett Hudson



STARKVILLE -- The Starkville High School football team has plenty of go-to players. 


Coach Chris Jones doesn't hesitate to call on any of those playmakers on offense. 


On the other side of the football, Starkville defensive coordinator Kevie Thompson has one player he looks to when he needs a play to be made. In those cases, Thompson looks to middle linebacker Jacob Williams and says "stop the bleeding." 


"That's when I get that fight in me," Williams said. "That's when I have to go make a play." 


Williams will try to answer that call at 7 p.m. Friday when Starkville (8-1, 4-0 region) travels to Jackson to take on Murrah in a Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A, Region 2 game. 


Even though Williams has seen limited action in the second half of five victories by 30 or more points, he still averages more than eight tackles per game. 


Williams does it in a way that prompts Thompson to label him an "old-school" middle linebacker who gets the job done with raw physicality. 


"We don't ask our kids to do a lot," Thompson said. "We like to keep it simple for them so they can play fast. We just ask him to read the guards and play fast. I try to take away all the thinking." 


As a result, Williams' goal is to handle everything that comes downhill. One of the highlights came against West Point. While Mississippi State commit and West Point quarterback Marcus Murphy was in the midst of running for more than 7 yards per carry and three touchdowns, he took a snap and headed to his left behind two pulling offensive linemen. Williams read the play and took a path inside the wall made by the linemen and tackled Murphy for no gain. 


Starkville's opponents have seen plenty of similar moves from Williams. Getting to the ballcarrier without taking on a block has become Williams' specialty. Thompson sees his signature move as giving a shake to incoming linemen before using a swim move to get past them. With the shake,  


Williams is halfway out of the lineman's path and avoiding the full force of the block as he uses the swim move to get around it. 


Williams had a game-high 14 tackles, including one for a loss, against West Point. He said the tackle of Murphy remains his favorite of the season. 


That game was far from an outlier. Williams had two tackles for a loss and an interception against Meridian. Starkville limited Meridian to 10 rushing yards on 31 attempts. 


Williams had nine tackles in a victory against Provine in which the Yellow Jackets held their opponent to less than 3 yards per play. 


Williams had seven tackles, including two-and-a-half for a loss, and a sack against Northwest Rankin. 


Williams and the Yellow Jackets are certain to see several more physical runs in the final three weeks of the regular season and in the playoffs, but no one worries about how Williams will handle it. 


Williams said he's "constantly doing pushups," so he's prepared 


Thompson agrees. 


"He's perfect for that part of it," Thompson said. "He's fast, he's old-school, and he's physical." 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson



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