Editor’s Note: For more on these games and all of the Mississippi and West Alabama action from Friday night, see Sunday’s edition of The Dispatch.
STARKVILLE — With Jamie Mitchell and Brooks Oakley as head coach and defensive coordinator, the Starkville High School football team has prided itself on defense.
Starkville showed that pride Friday night, posting its second shutout of the season in a 35-0 victory against Northwest Rankin on Homecoming at Yellow Jackets Field.
The victory was the 16th straight in region play for Starkville (4-2, 2-0 Class 6A, Region 2).
Starkville senior quarterback Princeton Jones accounted for all four offensive touchdowns. The converted wide receiver threw for 233 yards and three scores. After Northwest Rankin (1-5, 0-2) turned the ball over on its opening possession, Jones had a 10-yard strike to Raphael Leonard on a beautifully thrown ball to the deep corner of the end zone. Jones then found A.J. Brown and Darius Grayer on 59- and 60-yard bombs down the middle of the field on perfectly timed crossing routes.
“We opened up the playbook more the last couple of weeks,” Jones said. “I just feel like I have the best wide receivers in the state at going up and making plays for us.”
Starkville’s defense, which has come alive the past three weeks, held Northwest Rankin’s multi-fashioned attack to 2 of 12 third-down conversions. Most of the Cougars’ 225 yards came late in the fourth quarter.
The Yellow Jackets caused four turnovers, including a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by sophomore defensive back Jontavious Gardner for the final score.
“Any time you put up a doughnut on defense you did a lot of things right,” Mitchell said. “This is the difference between 5A and 6A ball tonight because no matter what the scoreboard says, this victory wasn’t easy.”
Starkville will get back on the road next week when it plays Greenville-Weston High, which is led by linebacker Gerri Green, a Mississippi State verbal commitment.
n Columbus 44, Clinton 29: At Columbus, Falcons’ senior Corey Brown knew he and his defensive mates needed to play better.
Smith made sure that happened Friday night.
Despite falling victim to a few big plays, Columbus made a few of its own in a victory against Clinton in a Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 2 game at Falcon Field.
“Even though there are five games left (in the regular season), we knew this was the one we really needed badly,” Brown said.
Brown had three sacks, a fumble recovery, and iced the game by returning an onside kick 50 yards for a touchdown in the final minute.
“That was a lot of fun,” said Brown of his kick return. “Scoring on a kick return is never in my plans. But I was in there to help us get the recovery. When I fielded the ball, I saw no one in front of me.”
Columbus improved to 3-3 and 1-1 in region play. After a 35-13 region loss to Starkville last week, Columbus knew the significance of not going 0-2 in region play. The Falcons snapped a two-game losing streak with the win.
“You don’t want to overstate the importance of one game, but this was one that was really important for our season,” Columbus coach Tony Stanford said. “We made some of the same mistakes we have made all season. It is easier to go about the corrections after you win, though.”
Columbus stretched a 16-7 halftime lead to 30-7 when Kiran Sharp returned an interception 43 yards for a score. The game’s bizarre nature was only beginning.
Clinton (1-5, 0-2) scored two touchdowns in two minutes, including a 69-yard punt return by Jalon Kingston — one of four scores by the senior.
Columbus answered for a 37-22 lead when Trace Lee hit Rod Hogan over the middle for a 72-yard touchdown strike.
Kendrick Conner rushed for a game-high 116 yards and scored three times for the Falcons.
n New Hope 28, Center Hill 24: At Columbus, Brenton Spann scored two touchdowns, including what proved to be the game-winner — a 19-yard option pitch — to help the Trojans (3-3, 1-1 Class 5A, Region 1) beat the Mustangs (1-5, 0-2).
Spann, who also scored on a 7-yard run, helped New Hope respond after Center Hill used a 76-yard interception return for a touchdown by Coleman Mullins. A two-point conversion run by Danterius Ellington gave Center Hill a 24-21 lead with 8 minutes, 51 seconds remaining.
Following Spann’s second touchdown, New Hope’s defense had two solid efforts to seal the deal. Trey Rickman finished off Ellington after he recovered a bad snap for a 19-yard loss to snuff out the Mustangs’ next-to-last drive. After New Hope missed a field goal with 1:45 to play, Center Hill completed on pass to the 50-yard line with a little more than a minute to play. Center Hill threw two incompletions before Shontae Miller had a sack that set up fourth down and an incompletion.
New Hope quarterback Brady Davis was 16 of 25 for 275 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown pass to Jason Dickerson.
n Madison-Ridgeland Academy 40, Starkville Academy 0: At Starkville, the Volunteers were outmanned and overmatched in their loss to the Patriots on Friday night.
The Volunteers (3-4) compounded the problem by dropping passes and sure-fire interceptions. They also failed to generate any offense until the second half.
MRA (5-2) took a 21-0 lead into the second quarter following a pair of fourth-down conversions.
“I felt like those were back-breakers,” Starkville Academy coach Jeff Terrill. “I think it took a little bit out of us.”
The Volunteers forced three turnovers.
Starkville Academy will play French Camp Academy next week.
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