September 12, 2013 10:28:16 AM
Scott Walters - email@example.com
Oak Hill Academy football players and coaches were quick to pick out last season's key victory in what turned out to be a turn-around season.
"When we beat Winston Academy, we were 2-0," Oak Hill Academy senior center Preston Hall said. "That had not happened around here in a very long time, so beating a rival and winning a district game and becoming 2-0 ... all of that made that a very big deal."
Oak Hill Academy won last season's meeting 27-21 in Louisville. The teams will meet in another Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class 2A, District 2 at 7 p.m. Friday in West Point.
A year ago, the Raiders were coming off a winless campaign and any success felt good. This season, Oak Hill Academy has its sights set on a district title and a second-straight playoff berth.
After losing to Tri-County Academy 33-20 last week in its district opener, the importance of the second district game is magnified.
"When you play five district games, every one of them is important," Oak Hill Academy coach Daniel Merchant said. "Beating Winston kick-started our season last year. That was a big win as far as helping us make the playoffs. Hopefully, the game this year can have similar meaning."
After securing the program's first playoff berth since 2007, the Raiders have set their sights on doing even better this season. To achieve that goal, Oak Hill Academy has embarked on a challenging schedule.
Following a season-opening victory against Hartfield Academy, Oak Hill Academy has battled hard in losses to 2012 Class AA state runner-up Marshall Academy and 2012 Class A state champion Tri-County Academy.
"We feel like have the players to really compete this season," Merchant said. "The biggest thing is responding to the challenge after adversity hits. That is one thing about this group. They always keep fighting. They always come back out ready to work."
Drake Riley and Drew Riley topped the 100-yard rushing mark against Tri-County Academy. However, turnovers hurt the Raiders. Realignment moved Tri-County Academy into Oak Hill Academy's district this season, adding extra emphasis on the balance of the district schedule.
"It's a long season," Merchant said. "As long as we keep improving, we will be fine."
Winston Academy is winless through three games. The Patriots have lost to Sylva Bay Academy (30-20), Lamar School (32-14) and Heritage Academy (28-7). This will be the district opener for Winston Academy.
Hebron Christian (1-2) at Calvary Christian (1-2)
Hebron Christian will look to bounce back from a 44-0 home loss to Sharkey-Issaquena at 7 p.m. Friday against Calvary Christian in Meridian.
The Eagles were hoping to build on a 34-14 victory against Humphreys Academy, but couldn't put any offensive threats together against the taller, quicker Confederates.
Calvary Christian is coming off a 42-40 victory against Rebul Academy. The Cougars have lost to The Veritas (48-28) and Kemper Academy (40-22).
Hebron Christian won last season's meeting, 46-6, in Pheba.
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter