Midway through the season, it seemed that Starkville would miss the playoffs after starting region play 0-3.
Despite the slow start, Starkville rattled off eight straight wins, which was capped off by a memorable performance from quarterback Trey Petty who helped lead the Yellowjackets to a 48-32 win over Brandon to claim the MHSAA Class 6A State title.
“(We said) to just keep playing,” Starkville coach Chris Jones said. “We knew we could be here. We just had to keep playing, and we got some guys healthy. We just trusted the process. We just finished this time.
“This feels good, but it’s all about these kids. They never gave up. They have been playing like this for a long time. They have been in playoff mode for a while. Hats off to these kids. I’m glad we finished the right way.”
In Starkville’s first state championship win since 2015, Petty put together a five-touchdown night as he accounted for 194 passing yards and two touchdowns after going 13-for-19. He also ran for 62 yards and three scores, and as a result, led to him being named the game’s MVP.
“He’s a dog,” Jones said. “I’m happy he is on my team. He did a good job. He’s been doing a good job all year, and he deserves it. Early on in the season, he had a rough patch where he wasn’t healthy and wasn’t playing his best, but he bounced back like champions do. I’m proud of them, and he deserves it.”
Starkville got on the board in the first quarter after putting together a 9-play, 47-yard drive that ended with Petty scoring on a 1-yard run.
Brandon struggled early on, as it totaled just four yards of offense by the end of the first quarter. The Bulldogs did have a chance to score as they successfully kicked a 41-yard field goal, but a false start pushed them back and instead led to Brandon going for it and turning the ball over on downs.
The Yellowjackets maintained the momentum in the second quarter after Petty connected with Braylon Burnside on a 22-yard touchdown. Less than two minutes later, Petty scored on a quarterback run to finish off a 10-play, 47-yard drive to extend the lead to 21-0.
Just before the half, Brandon managed to get on the board as Will Elliot kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired.
Out of the half, Starkville’s continued to roll as Petty connected with Burnside for a 62-yard pass, which set up a 2-yard touchdown run for the Yellowjackets and built the lead to 28-3.
Brandon began to find success behind running back Nate Blount, who scored on a 7-yard touchdown run after rushing for 59 yards of the 67-yard drive to narrow the score to 28-10.
After coming up with a three and out, the Bulldogs looked to have another scoring drive, but Blunt fumbled as JaylonYork ripped the ball out. Petty then helped guide a 10-play, 64-yard drive as he connected with York for a 13-yard touchdown.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Starkville then added a 12-yard touchdown from Courtland Cooper to go up 42-10. Yet Brandon did not fade as the Bulldogs managed to put in 22-points in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Landon Varnes first connected with Lester Miller for a 14-yard touchdown to narrow the gap, but a 16-yard touchdown gave Starkville needed cushion as it extended the Yellowjackets’ lead to 48-18. Cooper finished the game with 67 yards and two touchdowns off 11 touches.
Varnes found Miller again for an 11-yard touchdown and then followed with a 1-yard touchdown run by Blount, but the effort was too little too late.
Varnes finished the game 20 of 38 and threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns, with Miller hauling in eight catches for 168 yards and two scores. Blount ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
Brandon ends the season with a 12-2 record after making back-to-back appearances in the state championship. Starkville finishes the season 12-3 and is the first team to win the state title as a fourth seed in Class 6A.