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Speed vs. strength as Brookhaven Academy Cougars host Amite County Rebels

Story by Adam Northam.

It’s the oldest football problem, and it’s a tough one.

It can’t be solved with weird formations or fancy play designs. It can’t be overcome with deception or trick plays. No defensive disguise can hide from it.

Size. That’s the problem for Brookhaven Academy tonight. The smaller, quicker Cougars are playing their last game of the regular season at home against the Rebels from Amite County, a team that is simple, straightforward and enormous.

“They want to be physical up front, and that’s really our weakness,” said Cougars coach Ron Rushing. “They are big up front, their offensive line has been together for a while, and their goal is to snap the ball and run with power.”

Brookhaven Academy (7-2, 1-1) is going to have to pile up on defense tonight if they’re going to stop the big rushing attack of Amite County School Center (4-5, 1-2), a team with a senior-heavy offensive line clearing the road for a rushing attack that, in the age of spread offenses and quick reads, still features a fullback in the lead blocking role.

Rushing said the Rebels will try to spread his team out, throw up a ton of formations and look for a mismatch to get their large blockers head-to-head with the smaller defenders on the Cougars roster. Brookhaven Academy will have to hang together and hit low if they’re going to stop the big guys.

“We’re trying to figure out how to get extra people up in the box to stop that run. We’ll have to stay low and put our players in a situation where they can succeed,” Rushing said.

The rush-heavy attack has worked for Amite County this season — some of the time. The Rebels have scored four or more touchdowns in five games this season, but they’ve also been held to 14 points or fewer in four games.

The home team, meanwhile, has enjoyed a fantastic season, running up seven wins and peeping in on the playoffs. BA has had some pretty slick cats on the field in 2017.

Cougar quarterback Dawson Flowers is the antithesis to the Rebels run-heavy attack. The junior has amassed more than 1,800 yards passing and 20 touchdowns this season, and senior running back Logan Murray has been in the end zone eight times himself, rushing for more than 500 yards along the way. Flowers, Murray and the other light-footed Cougars should be able to put points on the Rebels, who’ve given up 24 points per game.

Against the Rebels’ rushing attack, Cougar linebacker Nick Ogden will be in a good many piles, as he has been all season. The junior has 71 tackles on the year, as well as two picks and two fumble recoveries. Senior athlete Luke Jackson probably won’t be able to repeat another pick-six against the power run game, but he should add to his 35 tackles.

As far as after tonight, Brookhaven Academy’s postseason picture looks like it was drawn by a preschooler. Winning or losing against the Rebels could determine whether the Cougars get to stay home or travel in the playoffs, but there are up to 10 different teams that could meet them on the field.

But for Brookhaven Academy, who cares? The Cougars have had a strong season — to even be locked into the playoffs this year after going winless the last two seasons is an enormous turnaround. Rushing shared the credit for this season’s success with the 2016 squad — which not only didn’t win a game, but had to forfeit.

“That group knew they weren’t going to win, but they went out there and fought as hard as anyone. They wanted to carry the torch, and they inspired our school,” he said. “What we’re doing this year might not be happening if not for that.”

The game against Amite County is at Brookhaven Academy and begins at 7 p.m.