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Starkville beats Horn Lake for another region win


David Miller



HORN LAKE -- All things considered, the Starkville High School football team''s trip to Horn Lake went as planned. 


Devin Mitchell rushed for 116 yards and had three touchdowns, and Jaquez Johnson threw for three more scores in Starkville''s 49-19 victory in the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 1 game. 


The victory was the fourth in a row for the Yellow Jackets (5-2, 3-0 region). It marked the third consecutive week the team has scored 38 points or more. 


The Yellow Jackets are tied for first in the region with defending Class 6A state champion South Panola entering Friday''s home game against Southaven.  


Starkville had another breakout performance from Mitchell, a sophomore in his first year on the varsity team. Mitchell had touchdown runs of 58 and 49 yards before returning a kick 82 yards for a score in the fourth quarter.  


But Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell was ejected from the game for questioning one of Starkville''s 17 penalties. Having scored 42 points, Mitchell was beyond belief when his Yellow Jackets were faced with third-and-52, especially considering Horn Lake had been flagged three times for 22 yards.  


It was a scenario all too familiar for Mitchell, who pointed out the same officiating crew called the team''s blowout win against DeSoto Central three weeks ago. Starkville was flagged a season-high 23 times in that game. Friday''s night''s contest was the second-most penalties Starkville has had this season. 


"I said, ''Guys, it''s 42-14,'' " Mitchell said. "I wasn''t on the field. I don''t know. You just never know with officials. 


"Our thing is, when the game gets out of hand let''s let the clock run, get the game over, and keep people healthy. That''s all we''re trying to do. You get officials that won''t let you do that. We''re trying our best to run the clock and get it over with." 


Ejections carry a $450 fine but no suspensions. Mitchell and athletic director Dr. Stan Miller both said they would appeal the fine.  


After some ribbing from his players -- Mitchell laid out new practice punishment for players who commit personal fouls -- the first-year Starkville High coach lauded another performance in which young players emerged as weapons.  


Mitchell''s three-touchdown effort was a career-high, and sophomore Jimmy Saulsberry had a 42-yard touchdown catch. Mitchell''s workload increased after starting fullback Jakarta Agnew went down on the first play with an AC strain. 


Coach Mitchell wasn''t surprised by a player he said is the fastest on the team. 


"Pure speed, I know he''s the fastest guy we''ve got," he said. "A lot of people don''t realize that. He starts for us on defense, and it''s good for him to get some touches." 


Devin Mitchell credited his offensive line and receivers for helping him spring his two touchdown runs. His midseason emergence is just part of being on a winning team, he said.  


"Championship teams, it starts with individual effort," he said. "At some point, everybody is gonna have to step up." 


As for why it has taken him so long to show what he can do on offense, Mitchell was blunt. 


"It''s my fault," Mitchell said. "I haven''t been stepping up practice and performing the way I was supposed to, so, once they give me the chance to step up, that''s what I''m gonna do." 


For the second straight year, Starkville has started region play 3-0. Last season, the Yellow Jackets followed that stretch by losing three straight games before rallying to win the season-finale against Columbus to get into the playoffs. 


The Yellow Jackets have regular-season games remaining against Southaven, South Panola, Olive Branch, and Columbus. Coach Mitchell is keen to see his Yellow Jackets put together a complete game for the first time this season. 


"Last week against Tupelo, we played well offensively and defensively but struggled in the kicking game," he said. "We''re gonna have to put all three phases together.  


"We had talked so much about a two-game block, with the first three ending 3-0. That''s what we had to do. But this stretch run has been something else. You''re talking about four very, very good football teams. We should be well prepared."  


Starkville effectively ended the game with three second-quarter scores. Johnson (7 of 12, 177 yards, no interceptions) hit go-to receiver Shaquille Hill for two of the scores. Johnson has scored eight touchdowns in the past two games. 


Starkville continued its quick-scoring trend from last week, building a 21-0 lead in 14 plays. Starkville scored 26 first half points in 21 plays against Tupelo. 


Horn Lake (1-6, 1-2) will face Olive Branch next week, while Starkville will play host to Southaven, which had two players ejected in a 48-34 loss to Tupelo.



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