November 2, 2013 11:55:57 PM
David Herrington and Travis Beam put on a read option clinic Friday night.
Unfortunately, the Heritage Academy defense didn't have an answer against a dominating offensive line.
Herrington, a junior quarterback, rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns, and Beam added another rushing score to help the Magnolia Heights football team beat Heritage Academy 47-13 to clinch the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, District 1, Division II title.
Herrington's 64-yard run opened the scoring on a night in which the Chiefs (8-2, 5-2) rushed 41 times for 379 yards. Beam added a 4-yard touchdown run and 65 yards to a ground attack that helped the team earn its fourth-straight victory and secured a home game in the semifinal round of the playoffs. Magnolia Heights' last loss was a 23-20 setback against Madison-Ridgeland Academy.
"They're fantastic," Heritage Academy coach Barrett Donahoe said. "That's as good of a running combination (as you will see). They make things happen. We couldn't tackle them all night, and their offensive line did a great job of opening up seams and gaps. They go toe-to-toe with a lot of good teams. That is a good football team."
The 47 points scored against Heritage Academy was the most the program has allowed since a 49-12 loss to Lamar School on Sept. 11, 2009. The total is the second-highest in a game this season for the Chiefs, who have scored 339 points.
Heritage Academy (8-3, 3-3) needs a victory next week at MRA to secure the second seed out of District 1. Washington School's 28-14 victory against Pillow Academy (4-6, 2-4) helped Heritage Academy remain in control of its destiny. A loss by Heritage Academy next week would mean Starkville Academy would have to beat Pillow Academy in Starkville to give Heritage Academy a chance to defend its Class AAA, Division II title.
Last season, Heritage Academy had an answer for Magnolia Heights senior running back Fernando Van Hook, particularly in a 10-3 victory in the Class AAA, Division II title game at Mississippi College in Clinton. On this night, though, the Chiefs controlled the line of scrimmage and got to the edge and ran up the middle. They attempted just three passes, including one that went for a 16-yard touchdown on a pass from Herrington and Hunter Lacefield.
"They're real good," Donahoe said. "They did things fundamentally sound and have gotten better as the year went on. They came over here with a desire to win a football game and took it to us."
Austin Fitch hit Logan Bell on a 45-yard hitch-and-go pass in the left corner of the end zone. The extra point was wide left, but the score gave the Patriots life at 13-6. Unfortunately, the second chance was short-lived. A holding penalty wiped out a touchdown pass from Herrington to Lacefield. On the next play, Hunter Ferguson pressured the quarterback and Michael Ledbetter intercepted the underthrown pass to give Heritage Academy the ball at its 28-yard line. Three positive rushes gave the Patriots a second-and-6 at the 44 before Cody Mordecai was dropped for a 4-yard loss on a running play to the right. Fitch hit Mordecai with a 4-yard pass on third down that wasn't enough and forced the Patriots to punt.
On the first play of the next series, Mordecai had to be helped off the field and didn't return to the game. He returned to the Heritage Academy sideline on crutches and with his leg in a brace in the second half.
Magnolia Heights capitalized on its next possession thanks in part to a 35-yard run up the middle by beam. Even though Ferguson dropped Herrington for a 3-yard loss on first-and-10 from the Patriots' 13, Herrington regrouped to find Lacefield between two defenders. Lacefield made a sliding catch to help extend the lead to 20-6 with 10 minutes, 7 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Magnolia Heights held Heritage Academy to three-and-out on the Patriots' next two drives. That work set up the back-breaking score, a 49-run by Herrington up the gut that he cut to the right. The big gain set up Beam's 4-yard score that kicked the score to 27-6.
"They're tough to deal with back there," Magnolia Heights coach Cliff Young said. "David is elusive and Beam is that power runner. You have to play us honest on both sides of the line of scrimmage."
A year ago, Herrington played wide receiver. Young praised the junior for his instinctive play and his vision of the field. He exhibited that skill by reading the defense and picking his spots to give the ball to Beam, who was a backup running back who started on defense last season. Young said he didn't envision at the beginning of the season Herrington and Beam would be as good as they have been. He also made sure to credit the five players up front who opened the holes.
"We're big up front and those guys moved the line of scrimmage," said Young of a line that includes two seniors, a junior, and two sophomores. "They do an outstanding job, and they don't get enough credit for the success those two have in the backfield."
Blake Ballard accounted for the Patriots' final points by slithering in and out of narrow seams and into open space for a 27-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"We didn't perform the way we would like to," Donahoe said. "We made some mistakes early that got us out of our game plan. I love my guys. I love everything they have done for me. It is tough to watch them hurt tonight."
As tough a challenge as it was to play Magnolia Heights at home, Donahoe acknowledged his team likely faces a bigger obstacle next week when it has to go to MRA. While it still controls its destiny, Donahoe didn't want to be in this situation having to win the final game against a Division I team.
"It is going to be a tremendous challenge," Donahoe said. "We have to do things exceptionally well and play with effort and block and tackle. How our guys respond Monday in practice is going to be huge. We challenged them to respond as if it was a playoff game, so we'll see."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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