Steed lifts Simpson over Copiah Colonels

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 2, 2005

CLINTON — Copiah Academy faced a tough challenge Thursday nightin the MPSA AA State Championship game. The Colonels had facedtough challenges all season, routinely winning by the slimmest ofmargins to earn the right to play in the championship game, wheretwo-time defending state champion Simpson Academy was glad to meetthem.

Copiah found themselves facing a stingy Simpson defense, and thehighly talented Cougar running back, Shannon Steed.

Steed rushed the ball 35 times for 179 yards and two touchdownsas the Cougars from Mendenhall realized a three-peat, knocking offCopiah 14-7 at Robinson-Hale Stadium on the campus of MississippiCollege.

Simpson, which has won an amazing 37 of its last 39 games, endedthe season with an 11-2 mark. Copiah finishes the season 11-2.

“I’m proud of this team,” said Copiah head coach Mitch Mitchell.”They worked so hard during the summer and in the weight room toget this game. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to getto MC and play for a state title. No one expected us to make ithere.

These kids worked so hard to get here and the played theirhearts out. We just came up short.”

Mitchell, along with every Colonel fan that packed the visitor’sbleachers, may have realized a sign of what was to come on just thethird play of the game.

Copiah took the opening kickoff. On a third down and sixsituation, Simpson’s Ben Maddox recovered a David Brunt fumble onthe Colonel 42 yard line. It took just six plays for the Cougars toscore as Steed scored on an eight yard run with 8:08 remaining inthe first quarter.

The two teams traded possessions the remainder of the half, asboth offenses found it difficult to move the football. Copiah wasforced to go to the air most of the night, as their normallyeffective rushing game was only able to gain 57 yards on 24attempts, against the tough Simpson defense.

The Colonels had a prime opportunity late in the first half toput points on the board as quarterback Daniel Sims connected withWil Irvin for a 29 yard completion, setting up Copiah with a firstand goal at the Simpson six yard line with less than a minuteremaining. But the Cougar defense stiffened and forced the Colonelsinto a fourth down situation. On the fourth down play, Simsscrambled and lofted the ball towards the end zone, but the passfound the hands of Simpson’s Maddox, allowing Simpson to carry a7-0 lead into the locker rooms.

“Turnovers were the difference,” added Mitchell. “We had a goodchance right at the end of the first half, but the pass was just alittle under thrown. Our fumble early set up their first score, andthe interception by Maddox was big. We wanted to go to the breaktied.”

Simpson opened the second half by doing what it does best-relying on Steed and grinding it out on the ground. The Cougarstook the opening kickoff of the second half and burned just oversix minutes of the game clock, before Steed added his second scoreon a 14 yard run, pushing the Cougar lead to 14-0 with 5:57remaining in the quarter.

Copiah’s defense did its job the rest of the game, forcing puntsand giving the Colonel offense chances to put points on the board.But the only score of the night for the Colonels would come at the11:07 mark of the fourth quarter, when Sims connected with BrockCampbell on a 31 yard strike, closing the Cougar lead to 14-7.

That’s how the season would end for the Colonels as their lastoffensive drive of the year came up a bit too short. Copiah forcedSimpson into a three and out after the score, but the Colonel drivestalled at the Cougar 46 yard line, prompting Mitchell to call atimeout. The Colonels faced a fourth down with 4 yards need to keepthe drive alive, so Mitchell decided to go to the air. But Sims’pass was deflected away from David Brunt, ending the drive and allbut sealing the victory for Simpson.

The Cougars needed just one two first downs to run out the clockand secure the victory.

“It was a tough game on both sides,” said Simpson coach BillyWayne Hankins. “Steed showed us tonight how much heart he has.Copiah’s defense was tough but he kept at it and took what theygave him.”

“Copiah played a great game,” added Hankins. “It was tough forus to move the ball and put points on the board. I’m proud of ourkids for how successful they are. We lost so much talent from lastyear’s team that a lot of people didn’t expect us to make it backto MC. It’s been a good year.”

Sims completed 7 of his 18 pass attempts in the game for 123yards and a touchdown. Ben Stevens led the Colonel ground game with23 yards on 7 carries. David Brunt gained 22 yards on 11attempts.

Danny Piles made 14 tackles for the Colonel defense. Wil Irvinadded 10 stops. Scott Akin recovered a fumble.