Once again it was Starkville’s Gabe Myles who handed the Wave their final loss of the season. This time it took an overtime period to decide the team that got to travel to Jackson. Myles threw the overtime touchdown and ran in the winning two-point conversion to lead the Jackets past West Point for a second time in a row in postseason play.
In a hard fought rivalry game, West Point and Starkville went toe-to-toe all game on a very blustery Friday night. The game had many momentum swings along with drives that could only be described as gutsy and gritty. The Yellow Jackets were able to survive the war defeating the Green Wave 29-28 in overtime.
“We just came up short,” said Head Coach Chris Chambless after the defeat to Starkville, “the momentum shifted a lot in the game and whoever had it at the end will probably take the game.”
Starkville had a majority of the time of possession during the first half keeping the West Point offense off the field. The Yellow Jackets scored on two possessions during the first half. The first scoring drive for Starkville was an eleven play, six- minute drive that was capped off by a Darius Grayer 5 yard touchdown carry in the second quarter. The second touchdown drive for Starkville came at the 5:22 mark when Preston Baker carried the ball 47 yards for a Yellow Jacket touchdown. The Jackets led the Green Wave 14-0 in the second quarter. Tez Lane (16 carries for 130 yards rushing; 2 for 4 passing and 25 yards) started the West Point drive from the Wave 16 yard line with 5 minutes remaining in the half. It looked as if the Wave drive would get nowhere again as West Point’s offense nearly went three and out. Yet Coach Chambless rolled the dice and went for the conversion on fourth down and got it. After the fourth down conversion, Lane carried the ball down inside the Starkville 20 yard line. Then with less than fifteen seconds left in the half, Lane connected with Aeris Williams (100 yards rushing and 18 receiving) for an 18 yard touchdown. Eric Lemus tacked on his first of two successful extra points and cut the Starkville lead to 14-7 at halftime.
West Point took the first possession of the second half 79 yards down the field and capped it off with a Williams 1 yard touchdown rush. Starkville blocked the ensuing PAT and with 6:47 left in the third quarter, West Point only trailed 14-13. The Wave defense played tremendously in the second half keeping Starkville’s offensive drives short. Once again, the Wave were able to drive 67 yards into the end zone when Williams dove in from 2 yards out. Lane carried in the two point conversion; West Point now took their first lead of the game 21-14 in the fourth quarter. After trailing by 14 throughout the whole first half, the Wave had put up 21 unanswered points and had the momentum. But the Starkville Yellow Jackets still had some life left in them, when Grayer once again found the end zone on an 11 yard rush with 5:11 remaining tying the game 21-21. Starkville had the final drive in the game; the Jackets took the ball down to the Wave 7 yard line. With time running out, Starkville elected to go for the game winning field goal, but the Wave broke through the Jacket line and blocked the 24 yard kick.
The game entered overtime and West Point had the first offensive possession in the period. The Wave were able to score on the first play when Williams carried the ball ten yards around the corner for the West Point score making the game 28-21. During the Starkville overtime possession, West Point’s defense fought admirably and pushed the Jacket offense back to the fifteen yard line after three plays. But Myles was able to strike magic when he connected with Stanley Higgins for a fifteen yard pass on fourth down. Starkville wanted to go for the win feeling momentum had shifted to their side. Myles dropped back to pass, saw an opening in the West Point defense, and ran in the go ahead two-point conversion. Starkville was victorious over West Point 29-28.
“I promised everybody we were going play hard and we did that,” said Coach Chambless, “We just came up short.”
It was a tough loss for the senior class and every West Point player as their season ended again on the field in Starkville. The Wave will have to sit out the championship game for the second year in a row as Starkville will go on to represent the North Half in Jackson December 1st at 7:00 p.m. against the Pascagoula Panthers.