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McCarty guides BA to state title

It’s a long and winding road to a state football championship. Coach Tripp McCarty and his Brookhaven Academy Cougars didn’t have a GPS to guide them  when the 2012 season began but they managed to blaze a championship trail, overcoming potholes and adversity along the way.

     After a 3-4 start, McCarty’s Cougars righted themselves and marched to the MAIS Class AA State Championship. They defeated Marshall Academy 49-40 in the title game and posted an 11-4 worksheet. That accomplishment has earned McCarty Co-Coach of the Year honors on The DAILY LEADER’S 2012 All-Lincoln County Football Team.

     “We had plenty of things to conquer this year,” said McCarty. “We had 13 seniors on our team and I’m really proud of that group. They gave us leadership.”

     The BA seniors include quarterback Gage Posey, wide receivers Seth Rushing and Michael Evans, defensive back Will Hickman, linebackers Colby Culbertson, Drew Philipp, Preston Rawls,  Jacob Conley, Tanner Parvin and Trent Rutland, offensive linemen Joseph Jones and Ryan Kimble and placekicker Kevin Nettles.

     “I appreciate our coaches,” said McCarty. “They are dedicated and willing to work hard every day to make our program successful.”

     Johnny Lane Ball serves as BA’s defensive coordinator and strength coach. Andrew Hickman coaches the secondary and running backs. David Gilbert and graduate assistant Will Lucas coached wide receivers.

     Bruce Allsup and David Dunaway coach BA’s junior high team.

      The Cougars lost two straight games in the last weeks of September, losing to Centreville and Oak Forest. Saddled with a 3-4 worksheet, some teams would have settled for a mediocre campaign.

     “After we lost to Oak Forest, there was no panic mode,” said McCarty. “Some coaches might think about changing personnel or trying something new on offense. We just stuck with the basics and kept on doing what we had been doing. We tried to get better each week.”

     The Cougars captured the District 5-AA title for a seventh straight year and set their focus on the state playoffs. They breezed past Columbia  Academy in the opening round and drew a tough Lamar School team in the second round. They prevailed 33-28 in a thriller but lost standout linebacker/running back Landon Nettles to a concussion.

     The Cougars regrouped, wore a No. 33 sticker on the back of their helmets to honor Nettles and came from behind to beat Simpson Academy 21-17 in the South State title game, avenging a regular-season loss.

     “Landon was big on both sides of the ball,” said McCarty. “I’m really proud of the kids who stepped up and filled his position.”

     The title game against Marshall was an offensive shootout. Posey passed for 6 touchdowns and ran for another. It was BA’s first state title since 2009.

     “It was fun seeing their (players’) faces after that game,” said McCarty. “Then when they woke up Saturday morning, they realized they were state champions again.”

     McCarty, 35, has enjoyed two highly-successful campaigns as a head coach. He was an assistant for 13 years, the last four at Madison-Ridgeland Academy. He replaced Herbert Davis at BA in 2011.

     “I like the community and the facilities here,” said McCarty. “Our administration and board members have been very supportive of our athletic department. They give us everything we need.”

     Recognized as an offensive-minded genius, McCarty is a certified instructor  for  quarterbacks and receivers with  the National Football Academy. He helps conduct skill camps from coast to coast.

     A Camden native, McCarty is a 1995 Canton Academy graduate. He played quarterback and receiver at Mississippi College and later worked for MC as a graduate assistant. He also worked as an assistant at Canton Academy.