September 24, 2013 11:20:50 PM
You'll have to forgive Barrett Donahoe if he isn't completely convinced that his Heritage Academy football is back on track.
After all, there is only so much stock you can put in a 33-0 victory when your first-team offense runs only 26 plays. To compound matters, the Patriots (4-1) got back to their winning ways on a rainy night that made even the most conventional football plays a challenge.
So even though Heritage Academy doesn't play a conference game this week, Donahoe is looking forward to what he feels will be a test of his team's mettle at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Oak Hill Academy (3-2).
Last season, Heritage Academy blitzed Oak Hill Academy 42-0. The victory was the first of five in a row that helped the Patriots win the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division II state title.
This season, Heritage Academy hasn't has to grind out games in the fourth quarter, or play very many meaningful snaps in the second half. Donahoe hopes that will change Friday night, and he knows it will be different in the coming weeks when his team gets back to Class AAA, District 1, Division II play with games against Washington School and Pillow Academy.
In the victory against Hillcrest Christian last week, Cody Mordecai scored on a 16-yard run, Mark Thatcher returned an interception for a touchdown, and Parker Short scored on an 80-yard run. Thatcher added an 85-yard kick return for a score to start the second half. Short's 35-yard run capped the scoring.
While pleased with the number of big plays the Patriots ripped off, Donahoe said the team will strive for greater consistency this week and in the future while maintaining the ability to break big plays.
"I felt like we did a lot of good things in the rain," Donahoe said. "We had a few plays where we missed second-level blocks, things that if we pick up are big-yardage plays. When we did pick them up, they were big-yardage plays. It was feat or famine for us.
"We played a complete game. In our wins, I think we have played disciplined football, and I think we did Friday night."
Donahoe said Heritage Academy did a good job putting a 37-0 loss to Jackson Academy behind it. The patriots trailed 31-0 at halftime and were never in the game. Afterward, Donahoe said the team needed to do a much better job competing and being better mentally and physically prepared. With an easy victory against Oak Hill Academy last season fresh on his team's mind, Donahoe wants the Patriots to stay focused because the Raiders will come in hungry with something to prove.
"Everybody is aware of Oak Hill's success," Donahoe said. "Our kids know each other and know they have good athletes on their team. Coach (Daniel) Merchant is doing a very good job and has the program heading in the right direction, if not already there, and getting better every week."
"We're very well aware that Oak Hill Academy has had this game marked on the calendar as a very important game. We know the challenge we will face with that, and we know they're going to be extremely excited to come over here and play, and we are, too."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.