September 2, 2018 1:15:37 AM
STARKVILLE -- The West Point High School football team felt something Friday it hadn't experienced in more than two years.
Some players held their heads in their hands and received a reassuring pat on the back from a teammate or coach. Others had hollow looks. In the postgame huddle, many players had a look of determination in their eyes.
The facial expressions and body language followed a 23-7 loss to Starkville that snapped the Green Wave's 30-game winning streak, which was the second-longest active streak in the state of Mississippi.
In the 96th meeting of the rivalry, West Point allowed opportunities to slip through its fingers and couldn't stop Dreke Clark and Starkville in the second half.
"My hat is off to Starkville. They played great," West Point coach Chris Chambless said. "It was a battle and a war. We didn't get a lot of breaks, and it makes you realize you must create your opportunities. It will be a lesson learned."
After leading at halftime, 7-6, West Point generated little offense in the final 24 minutes. The Yellow Jackets scored on their first possession of the second half opening possession and then forced West Point to punt on its next five drives.
On West Point's sixth possession of the half, the Green Wave fumbled, which led to Starkville's final touchdown. West Point crossed into Starkville once in the second half when it moved to Starkville's 45-yard line in the final seconds.
"We had them rattled in the first half, but we were out of sorts during the second half," Chambless said. "There were mistakes, offensively and defensively. We will get this opportunity again and are guys will be ready to take it on full speed."
In the first half, two West Point drives stalled in Starkville territory. The Green Wave failed to capitalize on a nine-play possession and saw the series end on downs at the Starkville 11. West Point also marched six plays to the Starkville 22 before coughing up the football on the center-quarterback exchange.
On the other side of the football, West Point's defense contained Starkville thanks to Tyler Rupert's 10 tackles and an interception. The Green Wave forced five three-and-outs to open the game. Starkville gained 59 total yards in the first half, which helped West Point build a 7-6 halftime lead on Brandon Harris' 3-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.
However, the defensive stand unraveled as Luke Altmyer and Clark fueled Starkville to a 259-yard showing in the final two quarters.
"We just ran into a good Starkville team," Chambless said. "I know, and I know the kids know, we didn't play our greatest game. We will be able to tell that on film."
Despite the loss, Chambless said the setback will test his team's resiliency.
"It is not as high you fly, but how you walk when you come back down," Chambless said. "The Starkville-West Point game will be in the back of our heads for the rest of the year as a motivator. As coaching staffs, us and them, we will be rooting for each other to finish on top of our respective classifications."
West Point will be off next week as it prepares to face reigning Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) Class 4A State champion Noxubee County High on Friday, Sept. 7, at Hamblin Stadium in West Point.
West Point will open MHSAA Class 5A, Region 1 action against Lafayette County on Sept. 14.