August 25, 2018 10:36:52 PM
OXFORD -- Ten minutes remained on the clock as defensive linemates Jalil Clemons and Ryan Johnson discussed their sack totals and their teammates' statistics.
On the other end of the sideline, cornerback Myles Stone was reliving a screen pass he blew up and saying he wanted to be the first one to touch the trophy.
By this point, the Starkville High School defense had proven its dominance. All that was left was to learn the final score.
Starkville limited Oxford to 50 carries for 121 yards in a dominating 56-7 victory in the annual Little Egg Bowl Game.
"We knew the quarterbacks ran the ball really well, so the game plan was to take away them," Starkville defensive coordinator Kevie Thompson said.
Early on, Starkville had to adjust to a different look. Last season, Oxford's John Meagher had a big impact as a running quarterback, which is why Starkville coach Chris Jones expected to see more of the same. Instead, Oxford used a blend of Wildcat running with Meagher and tight end Jeremiah Pegues. The Chargers used tight ends and lined up two H-Backs to the right of the quarterback in an effort to use nearly every player as a lead blocker. Every play in a five-minute, 11-play scoring drive that stretched from the first quarter into the second came from that formation.
"We thought it was going to be a little more zone read with the quarterback because 17 hurt us last year," Jones said.
Said Thompson, "We had guys out of place. We got a guy in the right gap and a defensive line playing with a lot of energy. That was the main adjustment, getting our guys in the right place."
Starkville already had a plan for the zone concepts it expected. Thompson tweaked the usual gap exchange principles and asked the ends to crash on inside option runs to give Oxford a look it didn't expect.
Taking out the 11- and 12-yard carries on the touchdown drive, Oxford's yards-per-carry average drops to 2.0.
Thompson was surprised Oxford's game plan tested Starkville's defensive line.
"I feel like that's the strength of our team," he said.
Clemons and Jaylan Ware had a team-high eight tackles, including one-and-a-half for loss. Johnson had four tackles. Linebacker Zach Edwards had two sacks, and Tevontae Bond had two tackles for a loss.
Starkville's offense made sure the defense had field position in its favor. The Yellow Jackets gained 483 yards (an average of 9.9 yards per play). Quarterback Luke Altmyer was 16-for-21 for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Backup quarterback Nyjal Johnson also threw two touchdown passes.
Dreke Clark had 11 carries for 109 yards and three touchdowns. The scores came in the first half and gave Starkville a 21-7 halftime lead. KJ Lawrence had six carries for 32 yards. He rushed for a score in the second half.
Rufus Harvey had six catches for 106 yards. Joshua Aka and Atavius Jones caught touchdown passes. Tae Lucious had three catches for 71 yards, including two for scores.
The dominance on both sides of the ball that Starkville displayed Friday night is why many consider it a favorite to win the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 6A State championship.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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