Since Tyrone Shorter has taken over at Louisville and the Wildcats and Starkville High have rekindled an old rivalry, LHS has been right at the cusp of pulling it off.
Two years ago, the Wildcats were in position in the second half before Starkville pulled away late. Last year, the team had a fourth quarter lead, but SHS was able to find a way to win in the final possession. This year, it happened again.
Special teams would be a dagger for the Wildcats in a game that was in their grasp. A couple of miscues allowed the Jackets to once again slip out, and the Class 6A squad knocked off Louisville in a barn burner, 21-20.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Tyrone Shorter said. “We started off kind of slow, but they brought maximum effort and played their hearts out. We went toe to toe with a 6A powerhouse and should have won the game. We just had a couple of miscues. But I’m proud of our kids the way that they fought. They showed me a lot.”
A botched point after attempt in the third quarter kept the game from being tied late. But the Wildcats had a six-point lead in the fourth and a chance to hit a field goal with 5:27 left to go up by two scores. Both of those miscues came from either a bad snap or bad hold according to Shorter.
It was otherwise a game that Shorter couldn’t hardly be any more proud of with the exception of getting the win. His defense played extremely well against the high-powering offense from Starkville led by quarterback Trey Petty. The junior QB had two of Starkville’s scores in the game, getting them on the ground.
Petty scored both of those in the second quarter and put LHS down 14-0. But the Wildcat defense responded the rest of the game and allowed just one final score late. Gabriel Moore had another huge game with 12 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, and a sack. Kendon Sanders also had 12 tackles and had 1.0 TFL while Semaj Knowles had 11 stops. Kenneth Hill and Laterrious Haynes had 10 tackles each.
That group allowed the offense to get going, and the Wildcats did it on the ground. Keyarrion Jackson scored from a yard out to make it 14-7 at the end of the half. The third quarter would see swing in momentum. Jaden Tripplett would break through the defense and take it 59 yards to the house to cut the lead to 14-13 after the bad snap on the PAT.
Lightning would then strike as Haynes picked off a pass from Petty and ran it back 45 yards to send R.E. Hinze Stadium into a frenzy as the Wildcats took a 20-14 lead into the final period. Courtland Cooper would seize the lead on a run with under 2 minutes left in the game, and the Jackets would survive.
It was a heartbreaking evening for Shorter’s squad, but it was one in which the coach was able to tell them just how close they are.
“I know they were hurt, and they were down, but I told them to keep their heads up. We’ve got to expect to be in that situation and win,” Shorter said. “I told them the story pregame about David and Goliath and to have faith and believe. We were going to play with those guys, and I saw that on film. I thought we played very well in the trenches against a great football team. We won’t play anybody that will be better than Starkville moving forward. Don’t listen to the naysayers, just focus on what we got to do.”
The focus now shifts to a matchup this week at home against longtime bitter rival Noxubee County. It’s a school that Shorter himself knows plenty about having coached the Tigers for several years and won multiple state championships.
A challenge from Shorter to his team is to not let Starkville beat them twice. He wants his squad to come out and handle business and focus on what’s ahead instead of what just happened. It’s the final tune up before Class 4A, Region 4 play, and Shorter is looking for his team to take care of its business.
“I look at it as a rivalry game, and you can throw the records away. These kids know each other very well and we’ve got to be focused. We can’t have a let down because we had a big game the week before,” Shorter said. “We’re coming in with a loss last week, and they are too. Knowing those kids over there, it’s going to be a tough ball game, but I think we have a great game plan.”