Madison Central finally met its match Friday night, falling to Starkville on the road 24-21 in a game that could serve as a preview of the 6A North State finals.

The Jaguars (7-1) were vying to become the first team to beat the Yellowjackets (7-2) at home in the regular season since 2013, but a potential game-tying field goal by Luke Bridges missed right as time expired.

Madison Central fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter when Starkville cashed in on the first of two interceptions with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Luke Altmyer to senior Rufus Harvey and added a field goal following a muffed punt.

The Jags finally got on the board with under one minute to go in the first half on the first of quarterback Jimmy Holiday’s three touchdown runs. The first came from one yard out and trimmed Starkville’s lead to 10-7 at the break.

After holding Starkville to a missed field goal attempt on the opening possession of the second half, Holiday put Madison Central on top 14-10 with a 65-yard romp for his second score.

But the Yellowjackets, who came into Friday’s game ranked as high as No. 3 in the state, wouldn’t go away. They responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive, which included a crucial 4th-down conversion at the Madison Central 14-yard line and was capped by Altmyer’s second touchdown pass of the evening from 10 yards out.

His third touchdown, a 12-yard pass to Harvey, came early in the fourth quarter and extended Starkville’s lead to 24-14 with 10 minutes left on the clock.



Madison Central responded by putting together a 70-yard touchdown drive. Holiday capped it with a 1-yard dive, which cut Starkville’s lead to 24-21 with 5:30 left in regulation.

The Big Blue defense came up big with a stop on the ensuing possession, and Holiday drove the Jaguars deep into Starkville territory to set up Bridges’ field goal attempt. The kick looked good initially, but sliced right at the end.

With the win, Starkville jumped two spots to No. 2 in the latest Mississippi Gridiron rankings. Madison Central dropped to No. 4.

The Jaguars are also 3-1 in Region 2-6A games, which puts them in a three-way tie for second place with Warren Central and South Panola. The Jags already handed Warren Central their first region loss, and No. 5 South Panola (8-1, 3-1 in 2-6A) comes calling at 7 p.m. this weekend.