High school football teams tune up for season in jamborees

August 15, 2009 11:05:00 PM

Adam Minichino - [email protected]


Nearly all the coaches contacted Saturday night were pleased with their teams’ performances Friday night in jamboree/scrimmage action across the state. 


Some, like Immanuel first-year Shawn Gates, might have gotten a little hoarse from all of the excitement. 


But many of the coaches and teams won’t have a lot of time to spend fine-tuning things. The majority of Mississippi High School Activities Association schools in the area will play classic games Friday, while Mississippi Association of Independent Schools also will kick off the season Friday. 


Pickens Academy, the only local team that is a member of the Alabama Independent Schools Association, will play The Heritage School, of Newnan, Ga., at 6:30 p.m. Friday. 


Alabama High School Athletic Association teams will kick off their seasons Aug. 28. 


Gates, who already is hobbled with an ankle injury, was pleased with his team’s performance in a 30-0 loss to Manchester Academy and a 27-0 loss to Carroll Academy at a four-team event at Oak Hill Academy. 


“It was a big improvement,” Gates said. “We know where we stand and what we need to work on. I think we’re going to be just fine. We have some short numbers, but our kids are tough.” 


Gates said several kids played through bumps and bruises. Unfortunately, two of those players — Michael Tate and James Wriley — might have suffered injuries that could keep them out of the season opener against Hatley on Friday in Steens. 


Gates said the Rams looked good at times but that there were plenty of things his players will need to work on this week to be ready for the opener. 


“We have the heart and the will power,” Gates said. “Now we just need to get out there and do the best we can.” 


Oak Hill Academy Leroy Gregg was even more pleased with the outcomes his team’s night. The Raiders defeated Carroll Academy 13-0 and beat Manchester Academy 20-14 in two 10-minute quarters. 


The second game went back and forth before the Raiders pulled it out on the final play. 


Leading 14-7, Manchester Academy went 70 yards thanks to seven missed tackles, according to Gregg, to tie the game. 


But Jake Orman punched the ball home from 1 yard out after Oak Hill Academy went 70 yards with less than a minute remaining. 


Gregg said senior quarterback Davis Clayton played well and that Kale Pierce and Will Lummus had good nights receiving. 


“I was really pleased (with the offense),” Gregg said. “We had seven possessions and scored five touchdowns. We ran the ball real well and threw the ball real well. We had one turnover, but I was pleased with how our kids performed on offense.” 


Gregg said the Raiders will have of work this week on tackling. He said the team missed way too many tackles in both scrimmages. 


“If we don’t start fixing that problem we’re not to win a lot of ballgames this year,” Gregg said. “We missed some tackles in our scrimmage over at Winona last week. We’re not a very good tackling team right now.” 


Oak Hill Academy opens its season at 7 p.m. Friday at Heritage Academy. 




Columbus, New Hope at Philadelphia 


While Immanuel and Oak Hill Academy tested themselves in West Point, Columbus and New Hope traveled Friday to Philadelphia. 


Columbus tied Brandon 0-0 and lost to Kosciusko 14-0, while New Hope lost to Philadelphia 17-7 and tied Brandon 7-7. 


Columbus second-year coach Bubba Davis liked the effort from his defense, which stymied Brandon in the first game.  


He said Kosciusko held the ball for eight minutes and prevented his team from getting into a rhythm in the second game. 


Davis said that lack of continuity hurt an offense that featured five sophomores and a freshman. 


Still, Davis had plenty of defensive highlights. 


“I thought we played a whole lot better than we ever played last year,” Davis said. 


Davis didn’t want to get too distressed about his offense’s showing because he said one quarter is not a good indicator of what a unit or a team can do. 


However, the Falcons won’t have much time to get older because they play host to Aberdeen on Friday night. 


“Offensively we’re just so young, but we have to grow up real, real quick,” Davis said. “We’re still dealing with our mentality and learning to play with excitement and intensity. They still don’t really understand how to prepare mentally to get ready for a game. We’re still in that process, but we’re closer. We hope this week everybody is going to get on the page and we can get this thing where we want it to go.” 


Bradley said the Trojans played well in places and not so well in others. While that might sound like a typical first-game assessment, Bradley said he knows there are a lot of areas his team is capable of being better at that didn’t show Friday night. 


Against Philadelphia in a 12-minute quarter, Terrence Dentry scored on a 2-yard run to give the Trojans a 7-3 lead. But Philadelphia answered with a fade route and capitalized when a defensive back fell down. 


New Hope got the ball back with a little more than a minute remaining, but Philadelphia intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. 


“I was not very pleased with our effort in that game,” Bradley said. “We didn’t seem to go as hard as we can. We seemed to be going through the motions a little bit.” 


Bradley said the Trojans picked up their intensity level in the second quarter. Zak Thrasher threw a 20-yard pass to Daniel Gregory to account for the Trojans’ points. 


“We corrected some things in between and talked about some things we needed to do: To give a better effort and to go hard every play — and we played a little better against Brandon,” Bradley said. “I think our kids were surprised by Philadelphia’s level of play. They are a Class 3A school, but they’re going to get after some folks this year. 


“Maybe it is a good learning experience that you can’t take anybody for granted and that you have to show up no matter who you’re playing. They certainly are a very good team and looked to be in midseason form after two weeks. That is a credit to their coaching staff.” 




Heritage Academy at Pickens Academy jamboree 


The Patriots kicked off the Brad Butler era with a 7-0 victory against Bessemer Academy and a 7-3 victory against Tuscaloosa Academy at Pickens Academy. 


Will Swedenburg scored on a 10-yard run, and Tyler Marchak scored on a 15-yard run for the points. 


Center Austin Braddock converted both extra points. 


“We played pretty good. It’s a good start,” said Butler, who is in his first season as head coach after spending last season as an assistant coach to Lee Davis. “I felt like the kids played hard. That’s the only thing I am worried about. Not that I am worried about it, but that’s what I want to make sure they do. We’re going to make mistakes. They make mistakes on Sunday when they play. But as long as they play hard I can live with the rest of it.” 


Butler said Marchak, a sophomore, had an excellent night on both sides of the ball. He said Hunter Ward played good minutes at defensive end and Clint Markham also played well on the defensive line. 


Butler said he would have liked to have seen the Patriots handle playing in the mid-90s a little better. He said he thought the players got a little fatigued, so they will have plenty of conditioning work to do this week to prepare for Oak Hill Academy. 


First-year Pickens Academy coach Sam Pearson was equally pleased with his team’s showing in a 21-6 loss to Bessemer Academy and a 12-0 victory against Tuscaloosa Academy. 


The team played two 18-minute halves, running time. 


Pearson, who coached last season at Hebron Christian in Pheba, said Bessemer was “unbelievable” and that he was proud of the way his team moved the ball. Unfortunately, he said two turnovers proved too much to overcome. 


Pearson said quarterbacks Jacob Acker and Kirk Lewis had big nights and Michael Potts and Casey Jones played well on the offensive line. 


“Our execution on offense was pleasant,” Pearson said. “Our offensive line did a good job of picking up its blocking.” 


While the offense played well

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.