Starkville High School senior linebacker Zach Edwards closes in on Noxubee County quarterback Khristopher White in their game Friday in Starkville. The Yellow Jackets’ defense delivered an impressive effort in a season-opening 30-6 victory. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch
August 23, 2018 11:12:53 AM
STARKVILLE -- This time last year, Chris Jones and the Starkville High School football team had something to prove.
In 2017, Jones, who was in his first season at Starkville High after coming over from Kemper County High, was trying to help the Yellow Jackets bounce back from a 7-4 season and missing the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A playoffs.
Starkville took a big step in that direction with a 28-21 double-overtime victory against Oxford in Week 2.
When Starkville (1-0) kicks off at Oxford (0-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in an attempt to retain the Little Egg Bowl trophy, it won't try to solidify championship aspirations. Instead, it will attempt to enhance its title expectations.
"I want us to be better than last year," Jones said. "I'm not going to compare last year's game to this year's game because it's a completely different team. I just want us to get better. I need us to get better in all phases. I think it's going to be determined week to week."
Last season, Starkville battled an offensive slump, injuries, and more before a pass breakup by Natrone Brooks sealed the victory. From there, the program's future was cemented in Jones' vision.
"I think they started believing in me then. They didn't say it, I just felt it," Jones said. "I had to make decisions. It all worked out and we won the game. If we lost, 'Oh this coach don't know what he's doing.' "
This season, the Yellow Jackets are chasing consistent improvement. He believes a shot at a championship will take care of itself if Starkville keeps getting better and stays healthy. Games against West Point and Columbus will follow to prepare Starkville for Class 6A, Region 2 play.
In looking back at last season, offensive line coach Will Stewart said, "Some games last year it looked like we turned a corner. The next week it looked like we took three steps back."
Starkville hopes to avoid a repeat of 2017, when it lost all of the energy from the victory against Oxford in a 28-3 loss to West Point in Week 3. Starkville was without running back Dreke Clark and offensive lineman Kameron Jones for portions of that game. This season, Jones, his coaches, and the Yellow Jackets hope everyone stays healthy and the team continues its climb to a championship.
"We ran for 230 yards (last week)," Stewart said, "but I looked at it and saw how it could have been 300."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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