BA motto: ‘We Believe!’
JACKSON – There was neither a pumpkin nor a glass slipper insight Friday night on Millsaps College’s Harper Davis Field.Brookhaven Academy’s remarkable, undefeated march to the MAIS ClassAA State Football Championship had the best ending possible; avictory celebration.
Watched by a crowd of 3,000 fans, the Cougars (15-0) won inconvincing fashion, too. Their first-ever perfect season earnedthem their first state title since 1993.
Brookhaven Academy junior quarterback Chandler Rogers was thecatalyst in the high-scoring, 63-28 victory over the Lamar SchoolRaiders of Meridian. He passed for 353 yards and 5 touchdowns,completing 15 of 24 passes. He also rushed 18 times for 139yards.
“Our offensive line did a very good job,” said Rogers as hishappy teammates lined up for the traditional championship trophypicture. “Our running game really stepped up tonight.”
Matched in a wide-open, offensive spectacular with Lamar seniorquarterback Witt Haggard, the Cougars displayed smash-mouthfootball in the second half and took control of the game. They hadforged a 38-14 halftime lead on a booming field goal by Tyler Troutbut the Raiders rallied behind the passing of Haggard and thecatching of flanker Bo Bidgood.
BA senior offensive tackle Will Gatlin held the championshiptrophy with both hands. Like many of his teammates, he had playedboth ways.
“We came here with a purpose,” said Gatlin. “We are known forour passing game but we came out tonight and ran the ball right atthem.
“It’s a surreal feeling to stand here and hold this trophy,”said Gatlin. “I’ve got to find someone else to hold it awhile. Idon’t want to drop it.”
Offensive lineman Alan Michael Allred made his presence felt ondefense, too, intercepting one of Haggard’s passes. Mark Rushingalso intercepted a pass.
Asked about his team’s steady improvement on the offensive line,Allred said, “Back in the jamboree (Aug. 14, at Parklane) wecouldn’t block but one second. We have improved a lot.”
It was a gutsy performance by the Cougars against Lamar. Injuredstarters had been questionable. Running back Jennings Mills hadseparated his right shoulder in the previous week’s playoff winover River Oaks. Wide receiver Tripp Jolly had sustained aconcussion and wide receiver Bubba Keene had suffered ahip-pointer.
To their credit, they all played Friday night. Keene caught 2touchdown passes and ran for another. Jolly caught 2 TD passes.Mills scored the game’s first 2 TDs on a rush and a long passreception. He also scored the final TD.
Keene had gone through a week of daily therapy and survived. “Myhip is better but I had to fight it (pain) all night.”
Jolly, one of seven seniors on the squad, said he could haveplayed the second half last week against River Oaks after theconcussion. He was happy he could play against Lamar. “I’m glad Iwas here to enjoy this. To be undefeated and state champions isgreat.”
Jolly and Rogers often met during the heat of early summer andran passing routes. “We put in a lot of extra time. Me and Chandlerwould meet three or four times a week.”
Jennings absorbed numerous hits on the artificial surface Fridaynight. Early in the game his shoulder absorbed a hard smack and hehad to briefly leave the game. After the game, his sisters tookturns giving him hugs of congratulations.
“I had to come out on defense because my shoulder was poppingout,” said Mills. “Our offensive line did good. They opened someholes for me.”
Senior linebacker Jamison Powell had returned a Lamar fumble fora touchdown but the officials ruled it an incomplete pass, wipingout the 50-yard return midway through the fourth quarter.
“We did what we needed to do to win,” said Powell. “Ourlinebackers tried to jump on the quick outs (passes) and make surethey didn’t get many yards.”
Following his weekly tradition of writing Bible scripture on hisblack eye tape, Rogers had Psalm 27:2 clearly engraved: “When evilmen come to destroy me, they will stumble and fall.”
Lamar defenders tumbled like bowling pins after BA head coachHerbert Davis saw his team up 46-28 with 5:06 left in the thirdquarter. The offensive line went to work and plowed the way forRogers, Mills and Keene.
Rogers shared a dream with his teammates that he had enjoyedThursday night. The Cougars had won the state title by a 35-14margin. In reality, that was the score with 23 seconds left in thefirst half Friday night.
“I really do feel blessed,” said Rogers. “It’s a once in alifetime opportunity. I hope we can do it again.”
Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail email@example.com