August 29, 2018 10:26:00 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
The Heritage Academy is doing what it is supposed to do in convincing fashion.
With a combined margin of victory of 62 points in its first two games, coach Sean Harrison has plenty of reasons to smile as his team prepares to go on the road to face Wayne Academy at 7 p.m. Friday.
But Harrison likes the progress the Patriots have made because he senses this year's team believes it is capable of winning bigger prizes in November if it stays on track.
"We played two teams we were supposed to beat," Harrison said. "Sometimes you get stuck in that trap of we're supposed to beat them and then you only win by 14. I have seen this group come out and make two statements of yes, we were supposed to do this and we went out and did it.
"I feel like that is going to be a belief every week and that there is going to be no more of, 'Oh gosh, they beat us last year and there is no we beat them last year, it doesn't matter.' "
Heritage Academy will try to improve to 3-0 for the second-straight year prior to a trip to Meridian next week to face reigning Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class AAAA, Division II State champion Lamar School. Last season, Lamar School beat Heritage Academy 27-3 in the regular season in Columbus.
Heritage Academy is coming off a 54-20 victory against Tupelo Christian Prep on Friday night in a crossover game between MAIS and Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) opponents.
Harrison said the defense was "lights out" for a second-straight week. He also praised Kelvin "K.J." Smith, who had 21 carries for 194 yards and three touchdowns. The Patriots had 35 carries for 210 yards.
"K.J. looked so much more comfortable," Harrison said. "He is starting to realize he can be really hard to tackle. Against Kirk, he was thinking too much, which is to be expected because it was his first game with us."
Harrison said the coaches worked with Smith on using his strength, size, and speed to his advantage and not try to avoid people. He said he was proud to see him make that adjustment because he feels Smith can be a dominating presence behind an offensive line that continues to mature.
Carter Putt (13-for-18, 180 yards) threw two touchdowns and rushed for another. Putt hit Lex Rogers for one score and Moak Griffin for the other.
Jared Long sparked the defense with a 60-yard interception return. Harrison singled him out for showing the mental toughness to bounce back after biting on a double move early in the game. Two plays later, Harrison said Long had the interception for a touchdown.
Mac Howard also threw a touchdown pass to Trey Naugher for the Patriots.
As many positives as there were, Harrison told his players more needs to be done.
"I congratulated them on the win, but some of the things we're doing will cost us against really, really good teams we have coming up on our schedule," Harrison said. "They respond to coaching well, and they're going to fix them."
Harrison said the coaches have a lot to fix, too, but that prospect feels a little easier considering he has said the team is "light years" ahead of where it was at this point last season. He said he has been pleased with the physical play and the attitudes of his players.
Still, Harrison wants to continue to see his players "relish" the opportunity to play every week because there has been plenty of talk about the hopes and aspirations for this season. He believes his players' ability to maintain a hungry mind-set will make it easier to realize the preseason goals everyone discussed.
"I think since walking into the locker room after the ACCS (Adams County Christian School) game last year (a 42-12 loss in the second round of the playoffs) there was a belief and a motivation," Harrison said. "Success breeds success. With the (boys) basketball team winning the state championship and baseball going to compete for one, it has spring-boarded through the summer right into the fall."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.