• 75°

Henley’s 37-yard FG lifts Copiah over Oak Forest

GALLMAN — Friday night’s frosty MPSA Class AA South StateChampionship game was billed as a defensive struggle, with thevictory going to the team that made the fewest mistakes. After ascoreless first half, the Colonels emerged with another hard-fought10-8 victory over Oak Forest, before a packed house, in a game thatwasn’t decided until four seconds remained on the game clock.

It was then that Copiah coach Mitch Mitchell put the game in thehands, or more correctly said, on the foot of sophomore kickerRichard Henley who nailed a 37-yard field goal. The Colonels (11-1)advance to the Class AA state championship game against defendingchampion Simpson County, on Dec. Thursday, Dec. 1, at MississippiCollege in Clinton.

Henley had attempted two field goals early in the game, failingto connect on both. In fact, the ball never got off the ground oneither attempt, raising doubts with some Colonel fans about thealways reliable Henley. But Henley simply brushed off the doubtswith hopes of redemption.

“I never thought twice about going for the field goal,” saidMitchell. “A kicker will miss from time to time, and the secondkick wasn’t Richie’s fault. It was a bad snap and we never got theball on the tee so we couldn’t blame Richie for that.”

The only Copiah touchdown of the night came at the 5:53 mark ofthe third quarter when Daniel Sims connected with Brock Campbell ona 53-yard strike. Then came Henley’s first successful kick of thenight, the extra point attempt booming through the goal posts andgiving the Colonels a 7-0 lead.

Oak Forest battled the entire game, overcoming four turnoversand numerous stalled drives. The Yellow Jackets found themselves ina position to win the game late, driving 63 yards in the final fourminutes of the game. Then quarterback Shane Holland found A.J.Pettito on a 15-yard pass play, putting the Yellow Jackets on theboard with just 1:11 remaining in the game.

Oak Forest coach Jason Brabham had a crucial decision, to go forthe tie and overtime, or go for the victory. Brabham chose to gofor the win with little hesitation, putting the ball in the handsof his big fullback Bonner Fitzgerald who simply powered over theline for the conversion, giving Oak Forest a slim 8-7 lead withjust over a minute remaining.

The Colonels responded with late-game heroics. Copiah tookadvantage of a short onside kickoff attempt by the Jackets, anddrove just 30 yards in the final minute, putting the game in thehands of Henley.

Henley stepped up for the 37 yard attempt with little hesitationand booted a kick that cleared the left upright by mere inches,sending the Colonel faithful into an uproar. Oak Forest fans sat ina state of disbelief as the last few seconds ticked off the clock,triggering a huge celebration by Colonel fans.

Copiah emerged as the AA South State Champion and earned theright to play Simpson for the state title. Oak Forest ended itsseason at 9-3.

“We made some big plays defensively,” added Mitchell, who’sColonels intercepted Oak Forest three times and forced one fumbleinside the one yard line. “I was proud of our guys for not givingup when David Brunt got hurt. They showed a lot of determination.It’s a big win.”

Daniel Sims led the Colonel offense, completing 8 of his 15 passattempts for 139 yards and a touchdown. Ben Stevens led the Copiahground game with 23 yards on 5 attempts. Brunt gained 8 yards on 7carries.

Brandon Seal led Oak Forest with 74 yards on 17 carries. Hollandgained 30 yards on 5 attempts. He also completed 10 of his 18 passattempts for 54 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions.

Defensively, Danny Piles led the Colonels with13 tackles. Scott Akin added 10 stops and Kent Miller had 7 insupport. Jed Stevens had 2 interceptions and Will Irvin had oneinterception.

Copiah Academy hosted Oak Forest in a rematch of the finalregular season game for both teams played on Oct. 28. The Colonelswon the first meeting by the slimmest of margins, a 10-9 victory ina game that required a huge defensive stand late in the game tosecure the victory.

Kickoff for the MPSA AA State Championship game is set for 7p.m. on Dec. 1 at Mississippi College in Clinton. Copiah will facetwo-time defending state champion Simpson Academy which defeatedClarksdale-Lee 12-7 to reach the title game.