Starkville has depth at running back


Starkville High School senior Keith Lawrence Jr. is one of a stable of running backs behind leading rusher Rodrigues Clark.

Starkville High School senior Keith Lawrence Jr. is one of a stable of running backs behind leading rusher Rodrigues Clark. Photo by: Jim Lytle/Special to The Dispatch


Brett Hudson



STARKVILLE -- Chris Jones knows the weapon he has in Rodrigues Clark and isn't afraid to use him.  


Starkville High School's football coach already has called on the senior running back to make 59 carries and six receptions for an average of 16.25 touches per game. 


But Clark isn't alone in the backfield. While Clark might be one of the state's most productive backs (122 rushing yards per game for an average of 8.3. yards per carry), Starkville also can look to senior KJ Lawrence, junior Lazavier Evans, and sophomore Amariyon Howard to carry the load. Those running backs have combined for 20 carries for 209 yards and two touchdowns. 


"We're always thinking about the present and future at the same time," Jones said. "That's why I think it's important to play as many guys as you can, especially when you have young guys that have a chance to be pretty good one day. 


"We want to get the young guys as much work as possible because they're the future and they need to get as many reps as they can now so they can get a feel for the speed of the game for when it's their time." 


With half of Starkville's wins coming in blowout fashion -- 56-7 against Oxford and 72-6 against Columbus -- the Yellow Jackets have been able to get numerous individuals playing time. Evans has 12 carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. Howard has eight catches for 97 yards and a score. 


Jones hasn't been surprised. He remembers Howard playing with the freshman team last year when "every time Amariyon touched the ball it was a touchdown." 


Jones remembers speaking to an official at one of Howard's freshman games and telling him he was looking at the future of their program. Jones told him there are some guys he'll have to wait behind. 


While Clark and Lawrence are getting more carries, the reserves are left to take what they can and prepare to take over in 2019. 


"They're trying to rep everything me and Dreke do in practice," Lawrence said. "The small things are going to matter in a game when we need them to come up. We worked all summer long on small things. 


"They have to come up after this and fill in, and they'll have big shoes to fill. We teach them everything we know. They talk to us all the time about little things. They ask question like we're the coaches." 


That's why Jones doesn't expects there to be a drop-off as Starkville goes from its feature back (Clark) to its reserves (Lawrence, Evans, and Howard). They know the expectation and they take pride in living up to it. 


"The running back group is special," Lawrence said. "We can rotate anybody in there and still perform the same way. We're pretty deep at running back." 


Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson



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