BA Cougars can’t get past Kirk Academy

Published 8:00 am Saturday, November 6, 2021

High school overtime places the ball at the 10-yard line and gives each team four chances to get a score. Friday in their MAIS 4A second round playoff matchup against Kirk Academy, the homestanding Brookhaven Academy Cougars won the toss and elected to go on defense first.

The back-and-forth battle was tied at 38-38 after regulation.

Kirk Academy needed just two plays to convert their first overtime possession as senior running back AJ Wren walked in from the 3-yard line on second down after a big gain on the previous play.

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Stopping Wren had been a problem the Cougar defense had been trying to solve all-night as his 44-yard touchdown run four minutes into the game put Kirk Academy up 7-0.

BA took the ball to try and tie the game and went to senior quarterback Tyler Fortenberry on three straight running plays that got the ball down to the 1-yard line. On 4th-and-goal a false start moved the Cougars back and then — as Fortenberry tried to find his brother Trevor in the back of the endzone — another penalty was called on Kirk for pass interference.

That moved the ball back up, but it remained fourth down. Tyler Fortenberry scrambled, but couldn’t find a receiver and the ensuing incompletion set off a huge celebration on the Kirk sideline as the Raiders held on for the 45-38 victory on R.M. “Red” Stuard Field.

A large contingent of KA fans made the trip from Grenada and they were celebrating much of the first half as their team came out the aggressor.

Kirk scored late in the second quarter and then recovered a line-drive kickoff that struck a BA player before quickly scoring again. The Raiders led 28-10 with 73 seconds until halftime and the Brookhaven fans sat in shocked silence.

Fortenberry took his play to another level on the subsequent drive though. He hooked up with senior JR Brown on a 40-yard pass that got BA quickly down to the Kirk 20-yard line.

On the next play, Fortenberry shot up the middle of the KA defense for a rushing score. The PAT kick was blocked, and BA trailed 28-16 at halftime.

Coach Anthony Hart’s team began to bottle up Wren in the third quarter as both teams swapped punts early on.

Tyler and Trevor Fortenberry hooked up on a short slant that went for a long 65-yard score and cut the Kirk margin to 28-23 with 2:54 remaining in the third quarter.

The home bleachers were alive at that point and they had something more to cheer for after another Fortenberry rushing touchdown gave his team the lead.

This time Fortenberry dove over a Raider tackler from 4-yard out and then hooked up with Trevor on the 2-point try to give his team a 31-28 advantage with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.

That’s when Wren made his presence known again. On the first play after the BA go-ahead score, Wren took a carry around the end for a 41-yard pickup and later capped the drive with a 1-yard run that put his team back up 35-31 with 4:34 left in regulation.

The hard, low kicks that Kirk had been using all night backfired on them after that score though as senior Michael Watts of BA fielded the ball and made a 20-yard return that was further aided by a 15-yard penalty for a late hit — one of several called on the night.

That gave BA possession on the Kirk 20-yard line and it took just one play for Fortenberry to tie the game back up. This run saw several KA defenders grabbing and diving at Fortenberry, but none would take him down and after the Corey Case PAT kick, BA led 38-35 with 4:18 left.

Kirk senior quarterback Colbert Hathcock is a Meridian CC baseball commit and he made some big throws when his team needed it late. Hathcock made a conversion throw on 3rd-and-8 after BA went back up and then found Wren on a long throw that got KA into the Cougar red-zone later on the drive.

The BA defense stiffened though as senior linebacker Trenton Tarver made a big tackle of Hathcock on a quarterback keeper that helped stall the Kirk drive inside the Cougar 10-yard line.

Tarver was making his return after missing the last few weeks with a lower leg injury. BA was also without junior linebacker/tight end Rayce Stewart who was sidelined by a broken clavicle.

KA elected to kick a 25-yard field goal that knotted the game at 38-all.

A BA drive that started with under a minute remaining got the Cougars within field goal range, but a 45-yard attempt by Case at the buzzer didn’t have enough lift.

Case wasn’t 100-percent on the kick though as he’d taken a big hit from Wren in the lower back when he caught a pass from Fortenberry to get his team into Kirk territory on the previous play.

Kirk Academy will play in Natchez next week at Adams County Christian School in a 4A semifinal game. ACCS (9-2) beat Riverfield 41-7 Friday at home. Tri-County Academy (11-1) and Greenville-St. Joe (9-1) meet in the other semifinal.

Brookhaven Academy finishes 8-3 and as district champs in Hart’s first season at the school.

Tyler Fortenberry rushed 27 times for 219 yards and four scores in his final high school football game. He also went 13-of-26 for 256 yards and one touchdown through the air.

Trevor Fortenberry caught six passes for 129 yards. Brown had three catches for 83 yards and Case caught three passes for 38 yards.

Trevor Fortenberry led the BA defense with nine tackles and Tarver added 6.5 stops as did senior lineman Jake Livingston.

Kirk Academy ended the night with 498 yards of total offense — 279 on the ground and 219 via the pass.