August 18, 2018 10:14:34 PM
MERIDIAN -- Starkville Academy football coach Chase Nicholson enjoyed his team's milestone win Friday night.
Garrett Lewis hit Howell Archer for a game-winning 21-yard touchdown pass with 3 minutes, 17 seconds remaining Starkville Academy defeated Lamar Academy 21-20 in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) season opener for both teams.
"In my 10 seasons at Starkville Academy, this was our first win at Lamar, so this was a very big win for the program," Nicholson said. "Growing up about 25 miles from here, meant I had a lot of family here. It was a special night for me and a special night for our team."
The game was a matchup of reigning MAIS State champions. Lamar School won the Class AAAA, Division II crown last season, while Starkville Academy won the Class AAA crown.
While the game won't figure into any of this season's playoff ramifications, it was a huge measuring stick, considering Lamar had a majority of its starters back on offense and defense.
"Winning in the fourth quarter was big," Nicholson said. "We had talked all week about adversity. You just didn't know how this year's team would respond to adversity. We asked the kids what would happen when something didn't go our way. Finding a way to win was great and will help us down the road."
Lamar failed to convert a fourth-and-2 from its 23-yard line with a little more than four minutes remaining. Two plays later, the Volunteers scored the winning points.
Lewis found Nason Heflin for a 20-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
After Lamar School scored, Starkville Academy built a 14-6 halftime lead on a 9-yard run by Will Miller with 26 seconds left in the half.
The Raiders took a 20-14 lead with a score the third quarter and another in the fourth quarter. A critical goal-line stand kept the game tied and led to a 98-yard scoring drive for the go-ahead points by the home team.
"Defensively, we played a great first half," Nicholson said. "Offensively, we are still trying to find who can help us best at some spots. The kids didn't give up when we fell down, and that was big."
Ben Guest blocked two extra points for Starkville Academy to help preserve the win.
n Columbus Christian 14, Porter's Chapel 8: At Vicksburg, a long night had a happy ending for the Rams, who won Bill Beck's debut in another MAIS game.
"We had four lightning delays," Beck said. "The game ended around 10:45 and we didn't get home until 3:30 or so, so yes, it was a long night. I am proud of how we handled things -- how we didn't get bothered and just kept working. They hadn't won the season opener in a while around here, so hopefully this is something to build on."
Dakota Shaw scored the game-winner on a 9-yard run with 1:45 left in regulation. The big play was a 24-yard pickup on a reverse pass from Jordan Meek to Will Teague. That play converted a third-and-18 and placed the Rams in the red zone.
"We had four completions on the final drive," Beck said. "Dakota got banged up early in the game, so he didn't play as much quarterback as we would have liked. We knew going into the year the offense was going to be suspect until they got some games together. Then we played in a rain storm and that didn't help moving the bell."
Beck added that the weather conditions kept the humidity and temperature down.
"We dressed 27 players and played 24," Beck said. "The weather really did us a favor. It wasn't that hot, muggy kind of night you expect early in the year. That really helped it become more a of a defensive game."
CCA scored in the first quarter on an 18-yard play-action pass from Shaw to Will Teague.
In the third quarter, Porter's Chapel picked up a fumble on the CCA 4-yard line thanks in large part to the wet field conditions. The Eagles scored on the miscue to take an 8-7 lead.
Things stayed that way until CCA's drive late in the fourth quarter.
"It was a back-and-forth game," Beck said. "The kids played really hard. There were a couple of times where we didn't execute. However, the defense bowed its neck and kept us in the game."
Beck said the secondary play of Meek, Shaw, Teague, and Tyler Looney was critical against the Porter's Chapel passing game.
n Elsewhere in the area Friday night, Hebron Christian fell 26-0 at home to Sharkey-Issaquena Academy in MAIS play, while Aberdeen won 40-14 at Bruce and Hamilton won 42-12 at Coldwater in two Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) games.
Sam Frantz scored two touchdowns and added a two-point conversion in Hamilton's victory.
n In West Alabama action, Kingwood Christian School beat Pickens Academy 34-0 in Carrollton, Alabama. Jon Wesley Rye had 11 tackles to lead the Pirates in their Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) season opener.
John Michael Smith had nine tackles for Pickens Academy, which will play next week at Coosa Valley Academy in Harpersville, Alabama.
2. Players of Week: Crawford, Cork help West Lowndes start region win streak HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. MSU women's basketball team set to open practice Thursday COLLEGE SPORTS
5. Loss to Kentucky reveals issues for MSU LOCAL COLUMNS