OXFORD — Starkville High School junior running back Jacquez Horsley summed up his team’s performance quickly Friday night.
“We really owed Oxford one,” Horsley said. “Last year, they took the Egg Bowl, and it was our job to come here and take it back. We gave them one last year. We thought we had it last year and we left if off the gas. It’s a rivalry situation, and there was no way we were going to let that happen again.”
After second-ranked Oxford dedicated its new stadium turf, third-ranked Starkville ran all over it in a dominating 48-minute performance en route to a 52-29 victory at Bobby Holcomb Field.
The teams have now played back-to-back seasons for a miniature Egg Bowl trophy, which resembles the same one played for by Southeastern Conference rivals Mississippi State and Ole Miss. A year ago, Oxford rallied from a 17-7 halftime deficit to post a 35-24 victory.
“All we talked about all week was not letting up,” Starkville senior wide receiver Raphael Leonard said. “The coaches preached all week in practice about not letting up, not taking plays off, not taking anything for granted. We knew it was No. 2 and No. 3, so we really came out here hyped. We came out here with something to prove.”
Starkville proved it quickly and repeatedly.
In his second start, Brady Davis was 21 of 32 for 411 yards and six touchdowns. Davis delivered a big-time performance in a big-time setting, which may have been unfamiliar to him, but not his teammates.
“It seems like Brady has been here forever,” Mitchell said. “He is a veteran who has been to the battle, even though he is new to us. This is what we do at Starkville. We play big games. There is no intimidation factor. There is an expectation. Brady did what we expect our players to do in this type of element. The other players followed.”
Starkville topped 50 points for a second-straight week. Friday’s rout came on the heels of 51-19 domination of Class 4A favorite Noxubee County in its season opener. The Yellow Jackets churned out 587 yards and committed two turnovers against one of the state’s elite teams.
“We feel like we can go out and score 50 any week we play,” Starkville senior running back Matt Fuller said. “You saw the complete package. This was a special game because we know a lot of people think Oxford will win the (Class 5A) state championship. It was important we came out and sent a message. I think 52-29 is a pretty good message.”
With both teams having strong offensive performances (1,105 total yards on 50 first downs), the difference came in the secondary, where Starkville exploited its speed. Leonard was left all alone four times and finished with seven receptions for 169 yards and three touchdowns. In the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Davis barely overthrew Leonard for would have been touchdown No. 7.
Starkville had gone with reserves to start the fourth quarter but re-inserted first-team performers after Oxford kept playing its starters, went for an onside kick, faked a punt and scored on a double pass — all after the outcome was longer in doubt.
“We have an explosive group on offense,” Mitchell said. “They kept pressuring and giving us open shots over the top. We will take those shots all night. In the second half, we are playing twos and they are playing ones. There is an onside kick there, too. All of that was taking place after the game had been decided for two and a half quarters.”
Starkville scored on four of its first five possessions to build a 24-0 lead. The failed drive ended when a slight underthrow by Davis was intercepted. How close the Yellow Jackets came to perfection was scary. Michael Godley hit a 47-yard field goal and later had a 51-yard try hit off the upright.
Six receivers caught passes, with the two main running backs — Fuller (54 yards) and Horsley (37 yards) — breaking slant patterns in the backfield for touchdowns. The other passing score was a 30-yard strike to A.J. Brown. The most acrobatic play was Horsley’s first touchdown in which he hurdled two defenders to find the end zone. Horsley also rushed for a touchdown.
Starkville (2-0) will play host to longtime rival West Point on Friday night.
“This was fun,” Horsley said. “We owed Oxford something. This was an intense, emotional win. We have got something for West Point, too.”
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.