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Simpson’s red machine celebrates three-peat

CLINTON — A long red line of Simpson County Academy footballplayers grinned and waved to relatives as they received their statechampionship medallions Thursday night. They weren’t bothered bythe chilly air in Mississippi College’s Robinson-Hale Stadium.

The SCA Cougars had achieved a milestone, winning a thirdconsecutive MPSA Class AA state championship. Copiah Academy’sColonels had fought valiantly to win the title but had fallen shortof their goal.

Many of the Colonels hung their heads in sadness as they leftthe field, ignoring the cheers of encouragement from the largegroup of followers who had packed the stands on the visitors’ sideof the field. The 14-7 setback was a bitter pill to swallow.

Making their first state championship game appearance in 21years, the Colonels had battled Simpson the entire game and hadnothing to be ashamed of. The Cougars weren’t assured of a victoryuntil they halted Copiah at the SCA 38-yard line with 4 minutesleft to play. They managed 3 first downs and ran out the clock,powered by the lightning runs of Shannon Steed.

SCA head coach Billy Wayne Hankins said the three-peat wasspecial. “All of the state titles are great but this is the bestone.”

Hankins watched his swarming defense limit Copiah to a mere 57yards rushing. The Colonels found few openings between thetackles.

Steed was in a class by himself. The 5-foot-8, 165-poundspeedster was the decisive factor in the defensive struggle,rushing for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns. He often resembled adurable red rubber ball as he bounced off would-be tacklers,darting inside and out, hunting cracks in the defense.

“The most satisfying thing I could do is win this game,” saidSteed, smiling at the accomplishment. He plans to sign a baseballscholarship with Meridian Community College.

Hankins praised Steed’s performance. “Shannon is a great athleteand he has the heart of a champion. He made great plays three yearsago and he made great plays tonight. You can’t measure what’sinside of Shannon. I wish he was back on my team next year.”

Copiah head coach Mitch Mitchell was disappointed by the lossbut he was proud of his team’s success this season. “It was a greatyear and our goal was to get here to the state championship game.We just didn’t win it.”

Mitchell also praised Steed’s performance. “Steed is the bestrunning back I’ve seen. He has that extra gear.”

Mitchell loses 10 seniors to graduation, eight of them starters.He wants to keep improving the football program at Copiah. With theefforts of assistant coaches Lance Teasley, Scotty Cline, MichaelMcAnally and Terry Bauer, and community support, the future looksbright.