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BA claims AA state championship

JACKSON – Quarterback Gage Posey took a deep breath of the cool night air and said, “It feels great.”

     Posey, Brookhaven Academy’s outstanding senior signal caller, passed for six touchdowns and ran for another Friday night, directing the Cougars to a thrilling 49-40 victory against the Marshall Academy Patriots in the MAIS Class AA State Championship game. He completed 23 of 27 passes for 362 yards,   tacked on a crucial 2-point conversion pass and gained 46 yards rushing.

     Posey proudly shared the glory with his teammates. “When you have receivers like (Seth) Rushing, (Michael) Evans, (Caleb) Brown and (Ross) Foreman, and great blocking from the offensive line, it makes  my job easy.”

     The Cougars (11-4) claimed the third  state title in school history and celebrated after the game. Their last state title was in 2009. Marshall (11-3) erased an early 14-0 deficit and made it a track meet as the teams combined for 89 points and nearly 900 yards total offense on the artificial surface of Harper Davis Field, located on the Millsaps College campus.

     Second-year BA head coach Tripp McCarty relished the moment as he received congratulations from fans, friend and family members. His team regrouped after a 3-4 start this season and won 8 straight games.

     “I can’t say enough good things about this team,” said McCarty. “They have lots of heart and they never quit. I’m proud of them. It’s easy to coach a team when you have a quarterback like Gage Posey.”

     McCarty’s team held a narrow 21-20 halftime lead on the strength of  touchdown passes of 43 yards to Evans, 22 yards to Caleb Brown and 29 yards to  Rushing, plus  3 extra point kicks by Kevin Nettles.

     There were plenty of spectacular plays in the second half. Evans made the last one as a defensive back when he intercepted strong-armed Marshall quarterback Dakota Dailey in the end zone on a pass intended for wide receiver Aaron McAlexander. That sealed the victory with 2:43 left to play.

     “I turned around and made a play on the ball,” said Evans. “I had been covering their best receiver all night. “

     On offense Evans caught 3 touchdown passes from Posey. A 32-yard TD catch saw him falling backwards in the end zone. It gave the Cougars a 42-34 lead with 7:13 left in the game.

     On the ensuing kickoff, McAlexander turned a mishandled catch into a dazzling 96-yard return to paydirt. The 2-point conversion run by Von Watson was stuffed and the Patriots trailed 42-40.

     BA’s Jacob Conley returned the short kickoff 14 yards to the  BA’s 48. On third down, Posey launched a pass to Rushing who caught the ball, made a spin move on the defender and raced 53 yards to the end zone. BA led 49-40 with 5:58 remaining.

     “I split the secondary,” Rushing said. “I did a spin move and the next thing, all I saw was open field.”

     Dailey (6-0, 175), an elusive sophomore, directed his team to midfield before being intercepted by Evans. For the game, Dailey rushed 21 times for 170 yards. He completed 8 of 14 passes  for 167 yards and 2 TDs.

     BA senior linebacker Colby Culbertson said Dailey presented multiple problems for the defense. “We were trying to contain him. It’s like trying to catch a chicken.”

     Senior linebacker Preston Rawls sustained a separated right shoulder and had to leave the game in the third quarter. Linebacker Taylor Rutland aggravated a knee injury in the second quarter and was kept on the sidelines.

     “We had to move people around on defense because of injuries but we got the job done,” said Culbertson. “It feels great to win state.”

     Rawls and Culbertson each had 8 tackles in the win.  Garrett Pace had 7 tackles.  Tramel Shedd snd Rushing each had 6 stops. Tanner Parvin and Travis Thornton had 5 apiece.

     Marshall coach Bart Jenkins complimented the Cougars. “They have a great football team and Posey is a super quarterback. I’m proud of my kids for playing hard.”

     Rushing directed BA’s receiving corps with 11 catches for 183 yards and 3 TDs.