By Robert Wilson

       Madison Central looked like a team which could make a run at a second straight MHSAA Class 6A state championship Friday night as the Jaguars were impressive with a 41-21 victory over previously undefeated Starkville in the Class 6A, Region 2 opener for both teams.

       Madison Central led 41-7 midway in the fourth quarter before Starkville scored two late touchdowns.

       Madison Central improved to 3-1 and avenged its only loss of last season, a 35-28 loss at Starkville when Starkville rallied to outscore Madison Central 28-7 in the second half and win the game with 24 seconds to play. Starkville dropped to 4-1 and lost for the first time since Madison Central ended its season in the 6A state semifinals last year. It was the first time Starkville had lost a region opener since 2008.

Madison Central was dominant in all three phases – offense, defense, and special teams – Friday night against Starkville.

Senior tight end and Navy commitment Jake Norris ran for two TDs from the wildcat formation, senior quarterback and Louisiana Tech commitment Vic Sutton completed a 70-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver and Southern Miss commitment Isaiah Spencer. Sophomore running back Glen Singleton ran for a 4-yard TD. Sutton – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – completed 11 of 16 passes for 233 yards and one TD. Spencer, another Elite 11 member who received his first Power 5 offer this week in Georgia Tech and is rated the No. 12 player in Mississippi in the Class of 2023 by 247 Sports, caught eight passes for 186 yards and one TD.

Sophomore defensive back Jaden Johnson returned an interception 60 yards for a score on Starkville’s first offensive possession. Junior defensive back and Jackson Academy transfer Denym Mitchell had an interception to stop a Starkville drive to open the second half deep in Madison Central territory. The Jaguar defense – led by senior defensive backs DeAndre Pullen and Chris Berry and senior defensive lineman Edward White – slowed down dangerous Starkville junior quarterback Trey Petty and didn’t allow him a TD pass. Petty – rated as the No. 9 player in Mississippi and the No. 48 quarterback in the country in the Class of 2024 by 247 Composite – had passed for 831 yards and 10 TDs this season coming into game.

       Madison Central junior kicker Max Zuluaga made 2 of 2 field goal attempts (35 and 20 yards), and 5 of 5 extra point attempts. Zuluaga, rated as the No. 5 kicker in the country in the Class of 2024 by, made 8 of 8 field goal attempts and 62 of 66 extra point attempts last season as a sophomore. Friday night was his first field goal attempts of the season and he now has made 18 of 19 on extra point attempts this season.

         Starkville running back Courtland Cooper scored two TDs and backup quarterback Jaylen Ruffin completed a TD pass to Jaylon York.