Brookhaven Academy kicks off 2023 football season at Hartfield tonight

Published 1:39 pm Friday, August 18, 2023

Brookhaven Academy hits the road tonight to begin its 2023 football campaign with a matchup in Flowood against the Hartfield Academy Hawks.

Hartfield is 1-0 on the season after getting a 29-0 road win last week at Heritage Academy in Columbus.

The game will be the first for the Cougars under new head coach Reggie Lea, who was hired in April to replace Anthony Hart, who left after two seasons to return to Lafayette High, a place where he coached earlier in his career.

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Lea leading the Cougars is also a story of a coach making a return as he was the head coach at Brookhaven Academy from 1994-1998.

The preparations for BA over the last few weeks included a scrimmage with East Rankin and jamboree at Centreville Academy.

This is the first season for BA to play as a MAIS 5A program after getting bumped up in the last round of reclassifications. Hartfield plays in the 6A ranks as the Hawks are one of the six largest schools in the organization along with Jackson Prep, Jackson Academy, Madison-St. Joe, Madison Ridgeland Academy and Presbyterian Christian in Hattiesburg.

The MAIS league office creates the schedules for its member schools and they’re the ones that created this matchup between the Cougars and the Hawks.

If you’ve driven down Lakeland Drive in Flowood over the last few years and paid any attention, then you know that Hartfield is a school that’s boomed in enrollment and facilities since it’s founding in 2012 with the merger of University Christian School and Pinelake Christian School.

Last week in the win over Heritage, Hartfield was led by running back Reed Jesiolowski who’s committed to Southern Miss and will likely play tight end at the next level. 

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Jesiolowski ran for 196 yards on 16 carries and scored three times against Heritage. Hartfield led 9-0 at halftime before riding Jesiolowski to a big second half.

It’s been known that the Hawks would be loaded on defense this season and they lived up to that hype by holding Heritage Academy to 41 yards and just one first down last week.

The defense is led by senior linebacker Chris Jones, who’s also committed to next play at Southern Miss. Jones had an interception and a safety in the win over Heritage.

Sophomore defensive back Braylen Womack also holds an offer from the University of Georgia and Hartfield is led up front by 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior defensive lineman Reggie Vaughn.

Vaughn transferred to Hartfield during the offseason from Madison-St. Joe.

Two weeks ago, the MAIS ruled that Hartfield illegally recruited Vaughn. The school was fined $7,500, barred from competing in the playoffs and assistant coaches Ryan Lindsay and Lee Dawkins were suspended from coaching in games this season.

The evidence presented was reported to show Hartfield coaches talking to parents and students from St. Joe in the stands at a basketball game last year. The MAIS affairs committee voted 9-0 to sanction Hartfield.

This matchup between Hartfield and BA will be the first time for the schools to play football against each other since Hartfield changed from University Christian in 2012.

Offensive coordinator Jaymie Palmer is the lone holdover from Hart’s staff as Lea will also be assisted by new assistant coaches Justin Daley, Joseph Puckett, Bubba Keene and Tyler Russell.

The Cougars have a roster of 35 varsity players with five seniors, six juniors, ten sophomores and 14 freshmen.

The senior class is made up of lineman Jackson Porter, receiver Thomas King, receiver Cooper Strickland, quarterback Samuel Evans and lineman Dru McDaniel.

Porter is an experienced hand on both sides of the line as both a defensive tackle and as a leader in the offensive line unit.

He was picked to play in the MAIS Futures All-Star game last year and comes into his senior season at 6-foot-5, 250-pounds. Another important piece of the line is sophomore Cole Spencer. Spencer started on the line last season as a freshman and is 6-foot-4, 220-pounds.

Evans is a first-year starter at quarterback as a senior after coming out in the spring. One area where Lea and his staff have depth is at the wide receiver position.

There the Cougars will be led by King, Strickland and sophomore Carson Mowdy.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight at Hartfield. Brookhaven Academy will open the home portion of its schedule next week by hosting Centreville Academy.