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BA, Lamar will air it out tonight

Similarities are remarkable when you start comparing theBrookhaven Academy Cougars and the Lamar School Raiders ofMeridian. They both employ a wide-open, spread offense and bothteams boast exceptional, rifle-armed quarterbacks.

The scoreboard at Harper Davis Field, located on the MillsapsCollege campus, could easily blow a fuse tonight when the Cougars(14-0) meet the Raiders (12-1) for the Mississippi Association ofIndependent Schools Class AA State Football Championship. The gamekicks off at 5 p.m., just a few minutes after sundown.

Chandler Rogers, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior; quarterbacks theCougars. Witt Haggard (6-2, 180, sr.) directs Lamar’s offensiveattack.

Followers of the game would be wise to carry their calculatorsto tonight’s showdown. In 14 games, Rogers has passed for 3,461yards and rushed for 932 yards, accounting for 53 touchdowns.

By comparison, Haggard has passed for 3,532 yards and rushed for846, giving him a total of 62 touchdowns, 48 of them passing.

Obviously, pass defense will be a key to winning the game. Howhard can the defensive line charge?

How strong is the linebacker/safety blitz?

How quick and sticky-fingered is the secondary?

Stay tuned.

Brookhaven Academy head coach Herbert Davis won a state title atBA in 1993, the school’s first. He elected to leave his alma materin search of other championships and he won two of them. This ishis second year back.

Lamar head coach Mac Barnes built a football powerhouse atMeridian and won a state championship before retiring from thepublic school ranks. Secure with an adequate pension, Barnes stillhad a strong desire to coach and moved to Lamar nine years ago.

“I know Herbert real well,” said Barnes, a longtime activeleader in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “His playersunderstand technique and they understand the game.”

Barnes has nine seniors on his squad and all of them start.Davis has seven seniors and six of them start.

Lamar had been a member of Class AAA before this season. TheRaiders are fresh from beating Simpson County 42-28 for the NorthAA title.

Under the old MAIS format, football state championships weredetermined no later than the weekend before Thanksgiving. This yearthe A and AA titles are settled today. Trinity Episcopal of Natchezmeets Desoto, Ark., for the single A title at noon.

Sounding like a veteran coach, Barnes said Brookhaven Academy”has tall receivers who catch the ball very well. They are quick.Defensively, they run to the ball very well.”

Barnes’ team enjoyed an open date back in October so he had anopportunity to watch the Cougars play Simpson, a 37-14 BA roadvictory. Simpson later whipped Lamar 48-21 in the regular seasonbut the Raiders prevailed by two touchdowns in the Northfinals.

Davis played Lamar three times during his tenure at ColumbusHeritage Academy, winning two of them. Barnes and Davis share amutual respect.

“Seventy percent of our offense is passing,” said Barnes. “Wedon’t have a lot of size. We are very similar to Brookhaven.”

Lincoln County native Anthony Hart will lead his LafayetteCounty Commodores against Itawamba AHS in the Mississippi HighSchool Activities Association’s North championship game tonight.Hart’s ‘Dores (13-1) visit Itawamba (13-0).

To no one’s surprise, Hart has done an outstanding job at theOxford-based county school. His team whipped the archrival Chargerswho moved up to 5A this season.

In South 4A, St. Stanislaus (12-1) hosts Greene County (10-4),an upset winner over Lawrence County last week, for the Southtitle. In South Class 3A, Tylertown (13-0) hosts Morton (13-1)tonight while Booneville (13-0) plays Aberdeen (12-2) for the North3A title.

In Class 2A, Bassfield (12-2) plays Taylorsville (11-2) for theSouth crown. Ackerman (14-0) meets West Bolivar (14-0) for theNorth title.

In Class 1A, Durant (12-1) faces Vardaman (9-3) in the Northfinals and Mount Olive (8-5) battles Sebastopol (11-2) for theSouth crown.

In Class 5A, Wayne County (10-3) plays Moss Point (11-2) for theSouth title and West Point (12-1) faces New Hope (11-1) in theNorth.

In the new Class 6A group, Ocean Springs (11-2) meets Oak Grove(10-2) for the South title and South Panola (12-1) hosts MadisonCentral (13-0) for the North crown at Batesville.

Meanwhile, back in the Sports Department, Professor Hoopla B.S.,was still wiping the turkey gravy off his beard when he dropped offhis cranberry-stained list of predictions this morning. Hepredicted the winners of nine games last week and managed to getsix right. Special congratulations to the Alcorn State Braves andthe Mississippi College Choctaws who were triumphant.

Hoopla will begin with a Friday night state championship specialand then advance to Saturday’s showdowns.

Brookhaven Academy vs. Lamar School: In an offensive showcase,the Cougars prevail by a whisker. Brookhaven Academy 38-35.

Mississippi College at Wesley College: Choctaws wear insulatedunderwear for this Saturday NCAA Division III playoff game atDover, Del. Adam Shaffer passes MC to victory. MC 33-21.

Ole Miss at Mississippi State: Not to be confused with an eggroll, the Rebels win their second straight Egg Bowl and beginpacking for a New Year’s Day bowl game. Ole Miss 30-17.

Southern Miss at East Carolina: To the victor goes a berth inthe Conference USA championship game. Golden Eagles will seeHouston again. Southern Miss 31-14.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com