November 30, 2017 10:21:44 AM
STARKVILLE -- For once, getting to the quarterback didn't work out all that well for Jaylan Ware.
Going against Greenville in Week 8, the Starkville High School nose tackle busted through the line and reached for the quarterback with his right hand. But Ware suffered a broken ring finger when his hand smashed into the quarterback's facemask. The injury ended his evening with a season-low three tackles.
Ware wasn't going to let setback end a breakout sophomore season. Every day since the injury, Ware has put a club of sorts over his finger and padded it for practice and taped it for games and hasn't missed a beat.
"In big games, I can't really tackle. I have to body tackle. I can't arm tackle any more," Ware said.
Ware and Starkville (13-2) will play in the biggest game of all at 7 p.m. Friday when they will take on Pearl (15-0) in the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State championship game at Ole Miss' Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford.
Ware is fourth on the team with five-and-a-half tackles per game and fifth with 13 tackles for a loss. In the seven games Ware has played with the club, he has had to adapt his to remain effective in a way that might not be bad for him long term.
Starkville defensive coordinator Kevie Thompson said Ware has come a long way in a few months.
"When we evaluated players in the offseason, he wasn't one of those guys we counted in as a starter," Thompson said. "He's one of those kids that, without pads on, he doesn't play very well, but once you put those pads on he's a whole different animal."
Thompson remembers it didn't take coaches long on the first day of fall practice to realize "we made a mistake evaluating this guy." Since then, Ware's role has blossomed. Even while flanked by dominant outside forces such as defensive end Jalil Clemons and outside linebacker Zach Edwards, Thompson has seen Ware attract attention from two and three players.
Thompson said Madison Central had to help its center contain Ware in the teams' regular-season meeting. In Thompson's system, Ware's only job is to beat the center.
"It opens up a lot of holes for a lot of people," Thompson said. "It creates a lot of havoc for the offense because he pushes the center back and now the guards can't pull."
Ware's ability to open lanes for others to operate also has enabled him to produce at a high level. He has notched at least five tackles in the last five games, including eight in the regular-season finale against Clinton. He once had a streak of nine games with at least one tackle for a loss. Ware had one of his best games with 11 tackles against reigning Class 5A State champion West Point, which will play for a second-straight state crown at 7 p.m. Saturday.
"He came in and emerged as one of those guys, and he's one of those old-school mean type of kids," Thompson said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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