STARKVILLE – In his first year coaching the final job of a long, storied career, Ricky Woods and Starkville are headed to the MHSAA Class 6A state championship.
The Yellowjackets (13-1) captured their 10th North State title by defeating Madison Central 28-20 inside Yellowjacket Stadium on Friday night.
“I knew it was going to be a good football game,” Woods said. “We knew they had gotten better. We’ve improved a lot, too. They had a few surprises, and we had a few surprises, too. We came out in a different set than we ran all year, and I think that helped us.”
The Yellowjackets put a two-tight-end set to use to help bolster its offense early on.
Starkville struck quickly in the first quarter on an 8-play, 84-yard drive. Senior quarterback Montario Montgomery hit Avery Brown for a 25-yard touchdown reception to give Starkville a 7-0 lead. Brown had all but 12 yards on the Yellowjackets opening drive and recorded his fifth game of 100 or more yards rushing.
The Yellowjackets didn’t waste time gaining big yardage on Madison Central in the first quarter. On its second drive, Starkville scored again, capped off by A.J. Brown hauling in a 49-yard reception to give his team a 14-0 lead midway through the period.
Madison Central got into rhythm with the use of its run game to erase its deficit. Running back Jaylon Uzodinma helped dig the Jaguars out of a hole by touching the ball six times on the Jaguars first scoring drive which ended in quarterback Jack Walker nailing Will Brooks in the corner of the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown to get on the board with 2:35 remaining in the first quarter.
Brooks finished the night with eight receptions for 113 yards and a touchdown.
The Jaguars won time of possession in the second quarter. Madison Central’s second scoring drive ate up 6:40 of clock and was capped off by. Braden Boykin catching a 20-yard touchdown pass from Walker with 4:09 remaining in the half to tie the game.
Madison Central took a 17-14 lead into halftime after Michael Kroeze booted an 18-yard field goal
It was the second time all season that Starkville trailed at halftime.
“When we went into halftime we said we need to make an adjustment,” Montgomery said. “When we got that 14-0 lead, we sled a little bit on offense. We said we can’t do that anymore. We know they’re going to come out playing, we just need to come out harder.”
The two quarterbacks had nearly identical performances in the first half. Montgomery led Starkville to its two-touchdown lead in the first quarter by completing 6 of 11 passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked two times.
Walker led the Jaguars back from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game by completing 7 of 12 passes for 97 yards and two scores. He was also sacked twice.
Starkville took its halftime talk to heart and hung 14 unanswered points on Madison Central in the third quarter. The Jaguars would chip away at the Yellowjackets’ lead off another Kroeze field goal, but it wasn’t enough. The Jaguars turned the ball over on a critical fourth down at the end of the third quarter when Walker was stopped just shy of the first down inside the Yellowjackets’ 25. Starkville scored on its next drive.
“Obviously we wanted to win a state championship but for a team that didn’t make the playoffs last year to 4-5 during the year to turn this thing around and make it to the North Half, I’m so proud of them,” Madison Central coach Brad Peterson said. “My seniors did a great job leading us.”
Starkville will face Petal in the 6A championship at Vaught Hemingway Stadium in Oxford next Friday. The experience will be brand new for many of the Yellowjackets, who haven’t made the title game since 2012 (Class 5A). On the flip side, this is familiar ground for their leading man.
“You don’t ever know if you’re going to make one,” Woods said. “This is my 11th trip (to a state championship) in two states. Every time it’s special. You need to win when you get there, though. Just going ain’t what you want. You need to win the game.”
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.
Willie Gay, Starkville
The junior linebacker had two sacks for a 15-yard loss and two tackles for loss.
Starkville captured its 10th North State championship on Friday night.