August 18, 2018 10:37:03 PM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- The beginning of a new quarterback era at Starkville High School came with an unusual twist.
The first game of the Luke Altmyer era ended with four Yellow Jackets taking at least one snap. Only two are listed as full-time quarterbacks.
The newest wrinkles in coach Chris Jones' offense weren't created with fallback plans in mind, but he admits it's nice to know they can function as one.
Altmyer's second-half cramping gave the Yellow Jackets the opportunity to debut new formations and packages on the way to 388 yards of offense in a 30-6 victory against Noxubee County on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
"Year two is always better," Jones said. "I feel like they have a better grasp of the offense and I have a better grasp of who can and who can't. We have the athletes, and it's my job to get them involved. As the season goes on, we'll get better as a unit."
Altmyer was 11-for-15 for 124 yards and two touchdowns. In the first half, he threw well-placed balls for touchdowns to Rufus Harvey and Khiry Gee on inside-breaking routes. When his legs cramped in the third quarter, Starkville had an abundance of options.
The most obvious was Malik Brown, last year's starting quarterback, who is transitioning to wide receiver. He attempted only one pass, but he had six carries for 22 yards as a direct-snap runner.
Starkville also turned to third-string quarterback Nyjal Johnson for snaps. He was 3-for-7 for 19 yards.
The real curveball came with a shotgun set that featured three players in the backfield. Running back Dreke Clark took the snap with a combination of Brown, senior running back KJ Lawrence, and junior Lazavier Evans beside him. The other two players were set to the same side of Clark at the same depth. Clark had the option of handing the ball to one of the backs flanking him or to use them as lead blockers.
"It's a good Plan B," Jones said. "Luke is a great Plan A, but we have a great Plan B with Malik. Nigel can make plays, and the key is the guys around them. If they continue to play well, I feel like this can be one of the better offenses in the state of Mississippi."
The first two plays after Altmyer's first cramp came with Clark in a Wildcat formation. The Yellow Jackets then turned to Brown for a snap at quarterback. Later in that drive, Johnson threw a screen to Brown.
The personnel groupings didn't affect Starkville's aggression. Jones gave Johnson the go-ahead to throw downfield to Harvey midway through the third quarter. The pass fell incomplete, but it forced Noxubee County to defend the field even in sets that suggested run.
Starkville was effective in the running game. Clark's touchdown came on a 40-yard run from the three-back shotgun set late in the third quarter.
"It gives the recruiters a chance to see what I can do other than play running back," Clark said.
Clark had 16 carries for 109 yards. Lawrence took his two carries for 53 yards, while Evans ran for 41 yards and a score. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 236 yards and averaged 6.6 yards per carry.
As Starkville's opponents see the wrinkles and try to prepare for them, Jones plans on staying one step ahead.
"It's a lot we're not running yet," Clark said.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson