STARKVILLE, Miss., - Starkville entered Friday night needing one win to clinch a birth in the Class 6A Playoffs.
But instead the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over four times allowing Olive Branch to cash into 13 points in a 23-13 win.
The Conquistadors fell behind on an early interception return but battled back with 23 unanswered points to improve to 7-2 on the season.
"These kids have battled through a lot," said Olive Branch head coach Scott Samsel. "I'm proud of them. Player make plays. It's not x's and o's that win ballgames for you, it's the players."
The Conquistadors managed only 145 yards of offense on the night but took advantage of several short fields set up by it's defense with turnovers.
"I think that was key," Samsel said. "They've got a good defensive squad and thank goodness for our defense setting up some scores for us."
Olive Branch picked up 131 yards on the ground with Keshun Shipp as the workhorse rushing 29 times for 129 yards and one touchdowns.
"I thought we brought a lot of power to the table," said Olive Branch tackle Damien Robinson. "Wet surface, dry surface, it doesn't matter because we are still going to run the ball regardless."
Conquistador quarterback Todd Mays completed 2 of 5 passing for 14 yards and an interception.
"I thought our line did a good job and Shipp ran the ball hard," Samsel said. "Other than the turnover, I thought my quarterback did a good job managing the ballgame."
Bradley Rankin was the leading Olive Branch receiver with one catch for 14 yards.
The Yellow Jackets took advantage of an Olive Branch turnover to get on the board first midway through the first quarter. Billy Shed picked off Mays and returned it 17-yards for the first points of the game. Cody Berryhill came on to add the extra point for the early Starkville lead.
The Conquistadors attempted to get on the board early in the second quarter but Taylor Earhart's 37-yard field goal try sailed wide right.
Olive Branch put things together on their next drive set up by a 30-yard punt return by Courtney Gladney. The Conquistadors went the remaining 28-yards in two plays and scored on a 7-yard scamper by Shipp. Earhart's point after was good nodding the score at 7-7.
Starkville was held to three plays and out on the ensuing drive and brought on Wesley Montgomery to punt it away. But the snap was low and Montgomery's knee was ruled down giving the Conquistadors the ball deep in their own territory resulting in a 20-yard field goal by Earhart to give Olive Branch a 10-7 lead heading into the half.
The Conquistadors extended their advantage early in the third quarter. Starkville quarterback Jaquez Johnson was intercepted on the first drive of the second half by Randell Forney at his own 7-yard line. It took Olive Branch only one play to make them pay as May ran in from 7-yards out on a quarterback draw.
Johnson was picked off once again on the first play of the fourth quarter by Stephen Fortenberry and returned 19-yards for the touchdown. Earhart booted the PAT to give the Conquistadors a 23-7 lead.
Starkville mounted a comeback orchestrating a nine play, 62-yard drive capped off by a 23-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to tight end Martavious Foster. The two-point pass fell short as did the Yellow Jackets, who fell to 3-6 overall.
"I guess the only thing you can say is you try hard but it just doesn't happen," said Starkville head coach Bill Lee. "We just had some balls that kind of got away from us a little bit. They had some key interceptions. The field is kind of wet and we should have executed a little better but sometimes some bad things happen but we aren't going to point fingers. We've still got eight quarters left to make it to the playoffs."
The Yellow Jackets picked up 240 yards on offense with 182 yards through the air and another 58 yards rushing.
Johnson connected on 17 of 32 passing for 182 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions and was also the leading rusher with 67 yards on 14 carries.
Shed caught six passes for 43 yards out of the backfield while Chuck Tillery hauled in four passes for 72 yards.