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BA downs Patriots

DAILY LEADER / SHERYLYN EVANS / Brookhaven Academy running back Landon Nettles (33) eludes East Rankin's defender Peyton Cross (5) Friday night at RM "Red" Stuard Field.

DAILY LEADER / SHERYLYN EVANS / Brookhaven Academy running back Landon Nettles (33) eludes East Rankin’s defender Peyton Cross (5) Friday night at RM “Red” Stuard Field.

It was Homecoming Week 2013 at Brookhaven Academy, and Coach Tripp McCarty wanted his Cougars to punctuate the festivities with an exclamation point.

The homecoming crowd was not disappointed as the Cougars held off a valiant effort by the East Rankin Patriots behind the running tandem of Connor Dorman and Landon Nettles.

Nettles made his return after a three-game absence with 66 yards rushing and two touchdowns to lead the Cougars to a 27-23 victory before a large and festive crowd at R.M. “Red” Stuard Field.

Prior to the contest, McCarty commented, “We want to get off to a fast start tonight on offense and make sure we don’t give up big plays to a good East Rankin football team.”

“It’s been a great week here at Brookhaven Academy with all the Homecoming events and support from our students and parents, now we have to do our job on the field,” McCarty continued.

Brookhaven Academy would take first possession but were forced to punt to the Patriots after picking up two quick first downs. On the Patriots’ first play from scrimmage, defensive back Ethan Harris would make a jolting hit on East Rankin running back BJ Cooke, knocking the ball loose so that Steven Williams would recover for BA at the 50-yard line.

The Cougars went back to work on offense behind the passing of Heath Hickman who hit consecutive 16-yard passes to Jacob Thurman and Caleb Brown and then threw a strike to Ross Foreman for a 14-yard pass and catch in the south end zone. The PAT was blocked, setting the score at 6-0 Cougars at the 6:00 mark of the first quarter.

Each team would trade possession to wrap up the first quarter, and the score remained at 6-0 BA until midway through the second quarter when Patriots tailback Cooke took a handoff through the Cougar defense for a 40-yard gain.

This set up another run where Nickles found pay dirt on a seven-yard touchdown scamper. Nickles would add the PAT and the Patriots would take the lead 7-6 with 5:52 to play in the half.

East Rankin would hold the Cougars on their next possession to force a punt with hopes of extending their lead before half. But the Cougar defense would stand tall and put the Patriots in a third and long situation from their own nine-yard line.

After a BA timeout, defensive back Steven would deflect and then intercept a Hayes Roden pass attempt and return it to the 13-yard line with :47 seconds showing on the clock. Hickman hit wide out Ethan Harris for an 11-yard gain and set up Nettles for a two-yard touchdown run with :19 left in the half. A Hickman read-option run on the conversion after touchdown took the teams to the locker rooms with the Cougars on top 14-7.

East Rankin came out the second half needing to answer the Cougars late-first-half touchdown and looked to be headed in that direction. However, they would have to settle for a 19-yard field goal with 9:24 showing in the third quarter, closing the margin to 14-10 Cougars.

The Cougars were looking at a long field to put points back on the board following a touchback on the kick by the strong-legged Patriots kicker. After a short run on first down, Hickman would then bait the Patriot corner back on a hitch-and-go pattern executed perfectly by wide out Jacob Thurman that resulted in a 77-yard catch and run for the touchdown. The PAT sailed wide right, but gave the Cougars a little breathing room at 20-10.

The Cougars would hold East Rankin on their next possession, forcing a punt then taking over at their own 19-yard line. Then, the Cougars marched methodically down the field, mixing the run and the pass, highlighted by a Hickman to Harris 30-yard pass play on a third and 18 to set up another Nettles run from six yards out and the touchdown.

Hickman would find Caleb Brown on the pass for conversion and extend the Cougar lead to 27-10 with 2:28 to play in the third.

Down but not out, the Patriots would come back with a vengeance behind their “Johnny Football-like” scrambling QB Roden, who resembled Harry Houdini at times, escaping sure tackles and turning them into big gains. Roden then hit Luke Yancy on a critical fourth-down play from the 10-yard line for the touchdown pass. Nickles added the PAT to pull the Patriots back to within 10 point at 27-17 as time ticked away in the 3rd quarter.

Needing to run some time off the clock, the Cougars went to their run game and pounded the Patriots with doses of Dorman and Nettles, sprinkled with slight-of-hand keepers by Hickman to virtually eat up the fourth quarter time of possession.

One last-gasp effort by the Patriot defense and a fourth down stand at the 10-yard line gave them a small ray of hope. But they would have to go 90 yards trailing by 10 points with only 2:55 to play.

Not wanting to give up the big play, the Cougars were content to give the Patriots the 10-to-15 yard pass plays and allow the clock to run. Roden would then scramble out of what looked like a busted play and tightrope the sideline for a 14-yard touchdown run with :24 ticks left in the contest. The two-point conversion failed and set the stage for the ensuing on-sides kick with the Cougars holding a four-point lead.

Coach McCarty called on his hands team and Jacob Thurman scooped the kick to seal the victory for the Cougars, 27-23.

After the game, McCarty said, “I think we took a huge step forward on the offensive side of the ball, controlling the line of scrimmage and managing the clock when we had to.

“Defensively, we did some real good things and were in the right spots pretty much all night, but we have to make tackles when we get those opportunities,” he continued.

Offensively for the Cougars, Connor Dorman and Landon Nettles combined for 137 yards on the ground. Dorman had 71 yards and Nettles finished the night with 66 yards and two scores. Heath Hickman completed 13 of 17 passes on the night for 196 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Jacob Thurman led all receivers with five catches for 107 yards and a score. Ross Foreman had two grabs for 32 yards and a touchdown, and Ethan Harris added two catches and 41 yards to the total.

The Patriots were led by JB Cooke’s 101 yards rushing and a touchdown. Quarterback Hayes Roden completed 11 of 22 pass attempts for 113 yards and a touchdown. Roden also had a touchdown run to go with his 78 yards on the ground.

Defensively, Ethan Harris led the Cougars with eight tackles and a forced fumble. Landon Nettles had seven tackles on the night, three of those for a loss; Steven Williams was credited with four stops plus a fumble recovery and interception.

Brookhaven Academy is back in action next week on R.M. “Red” Stuard Field playing host to the Simpson Academy Cougars with kickoff set for 7 p.m.