Brookhaven Academy edges Copiah
GALLMAN – Friday night gave the area its first taste of fall weather for football, but things were sure to heat up as two old rivals locked up, with the Brookhaven Academy Cougars traveling north to Gallman to take on the Copiah Academy Colonels.
Going into the match-up with Copiah, Coach Tripp McCarty commented about the Colonels, “They have a much better football team than their record indicates and I expect them to be ready and play hard tonight. He continued, “We’ve had a super week of practice and we have to take that effort to the field and play like we’re capable of playing. I expect our guys to play well tonight.”
In one that wasn’t quite the performance the Cougar coaching staff expected; however, the Cougars sluggishly found the way to victory behind two rushing touchdowns and a solid defensive performance from BA senior Landon Nettles, edging out the Colonels 21-18.
On Copiah’s first play from scrimmage, tailback Syrshawn Fitch broke away on a 40-yard scamper, giving the Colonels an early threat deep in Cougar territory.
The Cougar defense was up to the challenge, holding CA to force a 29-yard field goal attempt by Abraham Handal, who knocked it right down the middle to give the Colonels a 3-0 lead with 6:39 to play in the first quarter.
Neither team could muster up any points as time ticked quickly through the first quarter and late into the second. Hoping to make something happen before halftime at their own 21-yard line, Copiah quarterback Ryan Drew went to the air only to have the pass tipped and intercepted by Nettles and returned to the CA 29 with :27 to play before intermission.
Two quick pass plays left the Cougars with a first and goal at the six-yard line when quarterback Heath Hickman hit wide-out Ross Foreman in the right corner of the end zone with :05 showing on the clock. Parker Myrick added the PAT and took the Cougars to the locker room leading 7-3.
The Cougars would take first possession in the third quarter and push quickly into Copiah territory behind hard runs of 12, 19 and 14 yards by Nettles. The 68-yard touchdown drive was culminated when Nettles took it in from three yards out for the score. Myrick added the PAT and gave the Cougars some breathing room at 14-3 with 8:03 to play in the third quarter.
Needing an answer, the Colonels would march right back at the Cougars and find themselves knocking at the door, but a costly penalty pushed them back on third down, and eventually they had to settle for another 29=yard Handal field goal to pull CA closer at 14-6 late in the third.
An untimely fumble by the Cougars on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the ball back to the Colonels at the BA 34-yard line. Wasting very little time, Copiah found the end zone on a Fitch six-yard TD run but the two-point conversion attempt failed, settling the score at 14-12 Cougars with just over 10 minutes to play in the game.
The Cougars looked to be on their way to answer the Copiah score, but another turnover at the Copiah 30-yard line put the ball and momentum in the hands of the Colonels with the opportunity to take the lead.
Facing a crucial third down and six yards to go, Drew hit Fitch on a perfectly executed screen pass that turned into a 60-yard catch and run to pay dirt, giving the Colonels their first lead of the second half. The point after was mishandled, but after the dust settled, the Colonels held on to an 18-14 lead with just 4:53 to play in the contest.
The Cougars returned the kickoff to their own 30-yard line and knew the task at hand in front of them. Hickman would go to work, mixing crucial chain-moving passes to his receiving corps of Foreman, Jacob Thurman and Caleb Brown, pressing toward the goal line to take back the lead.
Nettles would finish the job, shaking off two Colonel tacklers and bulling his way into the end zone for the nine-yard touchdown run with :50 to play. Myrick remained perfect on the night with the PAT to give the Cougars a narrow 21-18 lead.
The Colonels had to respond quickly, and things looked promising for them as Copiah Head Coach Scotty Cline pulled out all the tricks with the hook and ladder pass and pitch play ripping off 37 yards deep into Cougar territory. \ Needing a stop, the BA defense stood tall and forced Copiah to attempt a game-tying 31-yard field goal with :04 seconds remaining that sailed just left of the upright, giving the Cougars a hard fought 21-18 victory over the Colonels.
A perplexed Tripp McCarty commented after the game, “We played hard at times, but it was not one of our best overall efforts.”
McCarty continued, “We had such a great week of practice, but when it doesn’t translate to Friday night, we all have to reevaluate and make corrections.”
He concluded, “I’m proud for our guys to get the victory, but we have to ramp it up a bunch to be ready for ACCS next week.”
Offensively, the Cougars were led by Landon Nettles, who had 131 yards rushing on 18 carries and two touchdowns. Nettles also had one reception for 13 yards.
Quarterback Heath Hickman was 12 for 17 passing for 114 yards and one touchdown. Ross Foreman led all receivers with five catches for 51 yards and a score.
Copiah was led by tailback Syrshawn Fitch, who had 93 yards on the ground and one touchdown. Fitch added 97 yards receiving and another score. Ryan Drew was four for eight passing for 122 yards and a touchdown pass for the Colonels.
Defensively, Garrett Pace led the Cougar attack with 10 tackles on the night. Foreman chipped in seven, and Nettles added six and a half stops to the total. Nettles also had an interception for BA.
The Cougars wrap up their regular season next Friday against the Adams County Christian School Rebels with the District 5AA title on the line. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on R.M. “Red” Stuard Field with Senior Night recognition festivities prior to the game.