On the Louisville sideline, its fans were rushing the field and grabbing players as they celebrated a 26-22 come-from-behind victory Friday night at Yellowjacket Stadium.
In each of the past three seasons, the result has come down to the last play. This year, Starkville, the defending 6A champion and ranked No. 1 in the state, was blitzed in the second half by Louisville, the defending 4A champion after trailing 14-3 at halftime.
Louisville scored on all four of its possessions in the second half and won on senior Ceidrick Hunt's 32-yard field goal with 2:20 left in the game.
“I told our team that I was going to coach them aggressively,” Louisville coach Tyrone Shorter said. “I told our team that we were going to have a chance to win it at the end and that we would win it.”
Four-star receiver Braylon Burnside, Starkville’s Dandy Dozen player who is heading to Mississippi State, had four catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns. On the final drive, Louisville bracketed him with two defenders.
Starkville three-star quarterback Trey Petty was solid, but had two costly fumbles in the second half. The first was when he was scrambling and was hit from the side. Louisville recovered and scored to cut Starkville's lead to 14-9. The second fumble happened when Petty was sacked from the blindside, and Louisville recovered at its 40-yard line. The Wildcats scored to take the lead 23-22 with 2:50 to play in the game.
“We have to be able to get off the field on third downs,” Starkville coach Chris Jones said. “They had a couple of third-down and fourth-down conversions and the next thing you know, it's a different sense of urgency. We just didn’t execute and do well enough. We did not coach them well enough. We’ll grow.”
Jones told his team to stay together and not point fingers, not listen to the noise. And his team has been in this situation before, when Starkville lost three games in the district and had to win out to make it to the playoffs. It went on to win the state championship.
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“This loss won’t define us," Jones said. “We will get better and learn from it. If I am going down, I am going down with my money and our kids. Our kids played their hearts out tonight.”
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: High school football bedlam in Starkville: Louisville stops Yellowjackets