Brookhaven Academy football seniors sent out winners in regular season finale

Published 11:07 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

The lineage of recent Brookhaven Academy quarterbacks goes from Dawson Flowers to Tyler Fortenberry to last year’s starter, Elijah Helton. With the graduation of Helton last season, the position was one of the big question marks coming into the 2023 campaign for the Cougars and their new head coach, Reggie Lea.

The answer to that question was senior Samuel Evans, an athlete who’d previously been focused on baseball during his high school career. On Friday, against Amite School Center in the last game of the regular season, Evans showed BA fans at R.M. “Red” Stuard Field all he’s learned this season playing quarterback for the Cougars.

Evans rushed for 303 yards and six touchdowns to cap a sweet 49-26 senior night victory for himself and his classmates Jackson Porter, Cooper Strickland, Thomas King and Dru McDaniel.

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“Jackson and Thomas had been on me pretty hard to come out and play and I made my mind up in the summer that’s what I was going to do,” said Evans of when he first decided to play football. “Coach Palmer was trying to get me to come out too,” said Evans as he nodded towards BA offensive coordinator Jaymie Palmer.

The game was tied 14-14 at halftime and felt like it was ripe for the picking for whichever team could create a two-score lead in the second half.

That didn’t happen until the fourth quarter when Evans had back-to-back long touchdown runs, one for 61-yards and the other for 60-yards.

The 61-yard run came on the first play after ASC had pulled within 28-26 with 10:47 remaining in the game.

The Rebels from Liberty had put together a drive where they converted multiple 4th-down attempts, only to see Evans break through the middle of their defense to score 20 seconds after they cut it to a 2-point game.

That run was the type that Evans scored on all night. He was touched at some point or another by nearly every ASC player on the field, but he kept his legs pumping and the ball tucked high and tight as he swatted away attempted arm tackles before breaking free to the endzone.

His first touchdown of the night came from 23-yards out and capped the opening drive of the game but was answered quickly when Amite School Center got in scoring position via a long half-back pass completion.

A 42-yard touchdown run by Evans on the second play of the second quarter put the Cougars ahead 14-8. ASC answered to tie the game after getting great field position on a long interception return. The Rebels knotted things up at 14-14 with eight minutes left until halftime.

Just like they started the first quarter, BA had a strong opening possession of the second half, aided by a 67-yard kickoff return by Cooper Carr.

The drive was finished when Evans scored his third touchdown of the night, this one from the 6-yard line, to put BA up 21-14.

It took all of two plays for Amite School Center to answer as they covered 66 yards in that time to cut their deficit to 21-20 after an unsuccessful 2-point conversion attempt.

You could see both teams badly wanted the good feelings that come with winning a high school football game.

Amite School Center (1-9) was coming its first victory of the season, a 44-26 home win last week over Delta Streets Academy.

For BA, the Cougars (2-8) last won before Friday on Sept. 22 when they spanked Salem 49-12 in Walthall County.

The final Evans touchdown run was the 60-yarder that came with 7:51 left in the game and made the advantage 42-26 for the Cougars. You could see that the Rebels had given all they had at that point and knew the game has slipped away after the lead grew to 16.

Strickland, who finished 7-for-7 on PAT kicks, ended the night by snatching a fourth quarter interception and then scoring the final touchdown of the game on the following drive.

Strickland, Porter and King are a few of the core players for BA that never come off the field. ASC had its own group of guys that fit that bill too, like JT Bass, Michael Prevost and Zane Minton.

The regular season was the first for BA to play in the MAIS 5A classification and the Cougars have one of the smallest enrollments in that class. There were plenty of nights where Brookhaven Academy faced teams with rosters that doubled theirs in size.

Looking at the happy players taking pictures with their families on the field after the game, Lea spoke about the toughness of his boys.

“There were some nights where we were outgunned, no doubt about it,” said Lea. “They never quit though, guys like Cooper and Jackson and Thomas never stopped giving their all. Can’t even say how proud I am of them to have senior night end with a win.”

Who knows what the future holds, but it’s likely that BA won’t be going down a class anytime soon. The school just cut the ribbon this week on an impressive new addition to the front of the campus.

What the program will need going forward is more guys like the ones who were willing to battle on a week-to-week basis despite the odds often being stacked against them.

The program also needs to find more guys like Evans, guys who are walking the hall and putting off playing football for whatever reason. The senior quarterback will quickly tell you that he wishes he hadn’t waited so long to come out.

“Man, I just wish I had been playing before now,” said Evans. “I have said that a bunch this season, I wish I hadn’t waited so long to come out for football. It’s taught me a lot. It’s taught me a lot about life and how when you get knocked down, you don’t really have any choice but to get back up and keep going.”