Pearl outlasts Starkville to claim 6A state title

Published 10:25 pm Friday, December 1, 2017

OXFORD – It was close to the very end.

But a touchdown by senior running back Tylan Knight with 1:09 left was enough to lift Pearl to a 21-17 victory over Starkville on Friday. The win gave the Pirates (16-0) their first state championship in school history.

“I’m just so proud. I’m so proud for our kids, our school, our city,” Pearl head coach John Perry said.

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Though the Pirates took an early 6-0 lead behind a 35-yard pass from quarterback Dylan Kelly to receiver Kendarius Evans, Pearl found themselves playing behind the chains frequently as the Starkville defense hit the team for five sacks in the first half and the Yellowjackets (13-3) entered the break with a 14-9 lead after Pearl kicker Kyle Morgigno hit a 38-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the half.

“I told them (at halftime) that [Starkville] had played really good, they had gotten a couple of breaks. We had not done anything right….we just didn’t play Pearl Pirate football but we were only down five points, so I thought we were in great shape. All we had to do was go out there and score one touchdown and win the ballgame,” Perry said.

A scoreless third quarter gave way to the fourth period where Pearl claimed their second lead of the night behind a 5-yard carry into the end zone from Johnny Winston for a 15-14 advantage.

Starkville answered with 3:14 remaining in the game, posting a 34-yard field goal from Garin Boniol for a 17-15 lead.

Pearl punched in the go-ahead touchdown behind an offensive drive that took 2:36 off the clock, the Pirates going 75 yards in eight plays to gain the win and the title.

“At the end of the day we came to win, but we didn’t get enough done,” Starkville head coach Chris Jones said. “I’m not mad at my guys at all…. we weren’t even supposed to be here [in the title game], we were playing with house money… we will be back.”

Starkville features a junior-heavy roster that combined for seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss in the championship game. The Yellowjackets will also return running back Rodrigues Clark who rushed for 172 yards on 29 carries and quarterback Malik Brown.