MADISON — Starkville High School senior linebacker Jordyn Bowlin described his team’s mentality perfectly Friday night.
“We came here to kick the door in and take over,” Bowlin said. “When the other team knocks, we aren’t going to let them in our end zone.”
Starkville notched its fourth straight shutout in Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 6A, Region 2 play with a dominating 28-0 victory over Madison Central at Jaguar Field.
A year ago, the two teams played a 45-42 thriller won by Starville with first place in the region on the line.
The follow-up performance held no drama after the top-ranked Yellow Jackets scored on the opening possession of a game for an eighth straight week.
“We want to start fast,” Starkville senior wide receiver Keyon Higgins said. “That is our goal when we get off the bus. We want to come out here and put the other team in a hole.
“This game we started out strong, had some struggles but also finished strong. How you finish is just as important as how you start some nights.”
Starkville (8-0, 4-0 region) scored on the first two possessions of the first half and the first two possessions of the season half.
Otherwise it was a rather pedestrian performance. Starkville was held to a season low in points (28) and second-lowest number of total yards (366).
Postgame Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell preferred to discuss another number — eight –his team’s victory total on the season.
“A lot of teams do not come into this stadium and score 28 points,” Mitchell said. “Madison Central is one of the traditional powers in this state. You don’t walk off this field a winner unless you have played very well.”
Starkville did have some offensive highlights.
Matt Fuller resumed a normal workload after nursing a bruised tailbone for the past month. The senior back ran for a game-high 105 yards with three 2-yard touchdown runs.
Brady Davis completed 10-of-21 passes for 203 yards with a touchdown and underthrown interception. Davis found Keyon Higgins for an 86-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.
“We ran the drag route and I got wide open,” Higgins said. “I saw some guys close on me as soon as I got the ball. Then it was just a matter of keeping my balance. That was a fun touchdown because we needed a long play.”
On this night, the game’s storyline was on defense. An injury-plagued Madison Central (4-4, 1-3) squad was held to 110 yards of total offense. The Jaguars were held to less than two years per rush and quarterback Jack Walker completed 5-of-11 passes for 80 yards in those rare moments in which was he allowed to pass.
“When everybody is on the same page and we play as one, we can’t get beat,” Bowlin said. “When we get a shutout, everybody loves it. As a defensive player, you want the big tackle or the big takeaway. As a team, you want the shutout. That is why we play the game.
“The key word is humble. We continue to work hard at this and really don’t think too much of ourselves.”
Starkville won its fourth straight region game by shutout. The Yellow Jackets have allowed only one touchdown in their last six games.
Madison Central crossed midfield twice – punting from Starkville 47-yard line and later missing a field goal from the Starkville 30-yard line. The Jaguars became the latest in a long line of opponents to not even run a snap in the Yellow Jackets’ red zone.
“The d-line is working hard,” Starkville sophomore linebacker Abdural Lee said. “That is where it starts. They grind hard and really push us in practice. It’s a mind-set the whole team has. We work hard. Man, like we work really hard.
“We work hard at everything. Coaches make us do up-downs when we have tardies in class. Nobody is going to get out of line and not do their job. We have worked way too hard so far to let anything get in our way.”
Mitchell has preached that work ethic since taking over the Starkville program five years ago. The Yellow Jackets rode a similar formula to the Class 5A state championship.
Now this squad is gearing up for a run at the Class 6A state title. A team considered third or fourth in the preseason list of favorites is clearly No. 1 now.
“It is exciting to play every Friday night because we know the other team is out to get us,” Lee said. “We have a reputation now of being a hard-nosed defense. It is our job to go out there and back up what people have been saying about us.”
Starkville virtually locked a playoff berth Friday night. Now, the Yellow Jackets can focus in on a regular season stretch run which includes Murrah (6-3, 1-3), Warren Central (8-0, 4-0) and Clinton (7-1, 4-0).
“There is a lot of football left to be played,” Mitchell said. “Can’t wait to see our defense performs against those teams. They are the three best offenses in the league. Things will only get tougher from here.”
Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.