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Starkville nips rival West Point 21-20


Logan Lowery, Special to The Dispatch



WEST POINT -- The West Point High School football team built a 20-0 lead and held Starkville High to 33 yards and three first downs in the first half Friday night. 


But the Green Wave committed three turnovers and numerous penalties that allowed the Yellow Jackets to pick up momentum in the second half. The mistakes provided all the openings Starkville needed to rally for a 21-20 victory to give first-year coach Jamie Mitchell a signature win and the program its first victory in the rivalry in four years. 


"We''re not going to be satisfied with playing great teams close," said Mitchell, whose team lost to Class 6A power Meridian 14-7 on the road last week and 14-7 to Class 4A power Noxubee County in its season opener. "West Point is as good as we''ve been out there with. Finally we kicked the door down and beat a good football team, and at their place. You don''t come here and win very often." 


The Yellow Jackets (2-2) compiled 227 yards in the second half. Their defense stood tall, shutting out West Point and forcing three turnovers. Starkville finished with 260 total yards (165 passing, 95 rushing). 


"I thought we laid down in the first half and I''m not sure why," Mitchell said. "But we challenged them with everything but their mother''s love at halftime. Wow, I just don''t know what to say. There were so many big plays in that game. I''d hate to mention only one player because it took every player we had to win that ballgame." 


Quarterback Jaquez Johnson compiled 208 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He completed 11 of 21 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown while rushing 11 times for 36 yards and another score. 


Shaquille Hill led Starkville with four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, while Garrett Smith added three catches for 75 yards out of the backfield. He also rushed for a touchdown. 


West Point came out on fire. It marched 66 yards in 10 plays on its opening possession and scored when quarterback Justin Cox, a Mississippi State commitment, bootlegged left and ran in from 14 yards. Kwame Williams added the extra point. 


West Point added its next score midway through the second quarter when Cox connected with Tez Pulliam on a 49-yard touchdown strike. Williams again provided the point after to make it 14-0. 


The Green Wave added another score before halftime when LaKenderic Thomas plowed in from 3 yards, but the Green Wave missed the extra point with 1 minute, 47 seconds remaining in the first half. 


Starkville, which didn''t have a first down to that point, moved the chains three times on the final drive of the half to set up a 41-yard field goal by Daniel Fumo. But the Green Wave''s Kendrin Thompson blocked the attempt to keep the shutout intact as the teams headed to the locker room. 


West Point turned the ball over on its first two drives of the second half. The second came on a goal-line interception by Bryce Henderson. 


The Yellow Jackets capitalized on the mistake and as four West Point personal foul penalties to reach the end zone. Johnson scored on a 10-yard run to put Starkville on the board for the first time. Fumo kicked the extra point with 2:30 to go in the third quarter. 


The Yellow Jackets added another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, as Johnson tossed a 23-yard score to a diving Hill. Fumo''s point after pulled Starkville within one touchdown. 


After the Green Wave failed to convert a fourth-and-5 at midfield, Starkville drove to score the tying touchdown with 43-seconds remaining. Smith took a sweep to the left and crossed the goal line from 8 yards. Fumo''s PAT put the Yellow Jackets on top for the first time. 


West Point had one final opportunity to orchestrate a game-winning drive. With 37 seconds left, the Green Wave marched to the Starkville 25 in six plays to set up a 41-yard field goal try for Eric Lemus, but the kick fell a yard short of the crossbar as time expired. 


West Point outgained Starkville with 376 total yards and picked up 21 first downs. The Green Wave finished with 211 rushing yards and another 165 passing but fell to 2-1 on the year. 


"It''s a bad feeling, but they outplayed us tonight," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "It doesn''t matter what the stats say. If you don''t take care of the football and do the little things right, we had two weeks to work on those little things. We just didn''t get the job done." 


Thomas led the way for the Green Wave with 176 rushing yards on 26 carries and one touchdown. 


Cox had 199 yards offense and two touchdowns. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 165 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, and rushed 10 times for 34 yards and another score. 


Jamarius Tallie had three catches for 40 yards for West Point. 


Starkville will look to continue its winning ways Friday when it plays its fourth consecutive road game at DeSoto Central (0-4), while West Point will try to bounce back at home against Noxubee County (4-0).



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