October 27, 2013 1:33:16 AM
WEST POINT -- The Leake Academy football team found the chink in Oak Hill Academy's armor Friday and attacked it all night en route to a 35-0 Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AA, District 2 victory.
The Rebels pounded the right side of their line behind guard Zach Harville, tackle Neil Smith, and tight end Drew McMillan for 343 yards on 51 carries. Leake Academy running back Taylor Nazary had a game-high 184 yards on 24 carries. Joshua Jones added three touchdowns.
The Rebels (7-3, 5-0 division) did most of their damage with power plays, one right after the other. Even when Oak Hill shifted its defensive line to adjust, Leake Academy still had success. After five-straight power runs to the right side, they'd pop a big cutback run to the left.
"They ran a lot of that power, which we knew was coming," Oak Hill Academy coach Daniel Merchant said. "We made an adjustment, tried to slide our guys over, but they were just pounding us down inside. Just didn't work tonight."
Leake Academy coach Brian Pickens said injuries forced his team to move players around the lineup, which simplified the playbook. But with the right side of his offensive line averaging 250 pounds, the power ground game has been the go-to attack this season.
"That's what we've hung our hats on," Pickens said. "It's our standard offense. When we get it going ... it's hard to stop. They were giving us fits up front at first. They'd adjust, blow it up for nothing, then we'd pop one. They were throwing odd and even fronts at us, too -- odd in the first half and even in the second half. I knew they'd give us both.
Leake Academy's seniors closed the night with an undefeated career record in division play and another division title.
Despite the Rebels' success on the ground, the first half was nip and tuck. The Raiders (5-5, 2-2) forced a punt on the Rebels' first drive. Kaleb Darnell intercepted a pass and Drake Riley recovered a fumble on the next two series.
"We had a physical week of practice, and I really think that helped us play a strong first half," Merchant said.
A 37-yard run by Nazary helped the Rebels get going in the second quarter, which was the first play of a six-play scoring drive to take a 7-0 lead.
With nine seconds before halftime and the Rebels facing fourth-and-9, Alex Shepard hit Jacob Robertson for a 31-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 at halftime.
The Rebels pounded the Raiders in the second half, scoring on their first three drives.
Oak Hill's offense didn't help the cause, managing fewer than 100 yards of offense and five first downs.
"They were stronger up front," Merchant said. "The kids fought a little adversity, had a couple of plays not go our way early on. We just got to learn how to get through those times."
The Raiders had a couple of players leave Friday's game. Running back AJ Iseley and defensive end Matthew Gwaltney each left with shoulder injuries. Drew Allen, who has 841 rushing yards, injured a shoulder last week and is scheduled to return Nov. 7 or Nov. 14, if the Raiders are still in the playoffs.
"We're not the healthiest," Merchant said. "We got to battle through it. We won't bang them up in practice this week. We had a physical week of practice this week, and I think that really helped us in this first half tonight. Just couldn't overcome all the injuries."
Oak Hill Academy is the No. 15 seed and will play No. 2 seed Centreville Academy at 7 p.m. Friday.
2. Chisolm driven to help disc golf grow in Columbus LOCAL SPORTS
4. Gordon hopes U.S. women can help MSU grow COLLEGE SPORTS