CLINTON — The weather has turned cold, but the Yellow Jackets are just warming up.
Behind a stingy defense another strong performance from quarterback Trey Petty, Starkville raced past Region 2-6A foe Clinton 30-2 in the Second Round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs at Arrow Field on Friday night.
The Yellowjackets (10-3) will travel to Tupelo for the Class 6A North State Championship next Friday night.
“Defense played lights out, coming in with the game plan of stopping the run and they did an excellent job and executed,” said Starkville coach Chris Jones. “We’re kind of on a revenge tour right now. Clinton beat us and Tupelo beat us, so now we got to get ready and have a good week of practice and get ready for Tupelo.”
Starkville got on the board first with 2:59 left in the first quarter as Petty hit Jaque Jenkins on a 10- yard touchdown pass, but the extra point failed to give the Yellowjackets a 6-0 lead.
Starkville extended their lead to 13-0 on a Courtland Cooper 19-yard touchdown run with 3:06 left in the second quarter.
The Yellowjackets managed a field goal on the opening drive of the second half as Will Wells connected on a 36-yard field goal with 7:34 left in the third quarter to take a 16-0 lead.
Clinton got on the board on a safety as a snap went over Starkville punter Ethan Pulliam’s head and rolled out of the back of the end zone to cut the Starkville lead to 16-2 with 11:06 left in the fourth quarter.
After forcing Clinton to punt and facing a fourth down Petty connected with Jaylon York on a 34-yard touchdown pass with 7:34 left to extend the Starkville lead to 23-2.
Petty finished the night 13-of-18 for 125 yards with two touchdowns and also added 80 yards rushing.
“I think we’re playing our best right now. We’re healthy and just rolling,” Petty said. “We’ve been able to run the ball well and it opens up the pass. We’ve been playing a lot of tempo on offense and defense is playing great and that’s what really helped us. I didn’t play when we played Tupelo first time, so with me, I think we’ll get the job done.”
Eric Thomas sealed the game for Starkville with a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown with 5:30 remaining to give the Yellowjackets the 30-2 lead.
Starkville held Clinton to just 120 yards of total offense and 43 yards passing.
“Defense has been playing well for the past month and at this time of the year there’s two things you got to do play good defense and run the ball especially to that on the road,” Jones said. “We’re finally completely healthy and now it’s a different roster from about six weeks ago and now we’re playing to our strengths.”
Jakobe Calvin had 56 yards rushing to lead Clinton. The Arrows finished the year 7-5.
“ It wasn’t our night and Starkville had a lot to do with that,” Clinton coach Judd Boswell said. “Going into the playoffs, we all said Starkville is probably the most dangerous team left in this thing, and they are. They did a good job stopping us and we couldn’t get anything going on offense. I’m proud of my guys, they played hard and we got a lot out of this group this year.”