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Patriots' passing attack passes muster

 

Heritage Academy senior defensive lineman Clay Walters smothers the Kirk Academy quarterback in the driving rain Friday night.

Heritage Academy senior defensive lineman Clay Walters smothers the Kirk Academy quarterback in the driving rain Friday night. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch

 

Heritage Academy’s Eli Acker rips down a Kirk Academy ball carrier in their game Friday night in Columbus.

Heritage Academy’s Eli Acker rips down a Kirk Academy ball carrier in their game Friday night in Columbus.
Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch

 

 

Scott Walters

 

 

Since there wasn't enough time to erect a domed stadium Friday night, the Heritage Academy football team had to make do on the wet playing surface of C.L. Mitchell Field. 

 

After slogging their way through a first half in a driving rainstorm, the skies let up and the Heritage Academy passing game was dominant in the second half of a 35-7 victory against Kirk Academy in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) season opener for both teams. 

 

"The third quarter really alleviated a lot of my concerns," Heritage Academy coach Sean Harrison said. "Maybe we learned we aren't a rain team. Feel really good about how we came out in the second half and put the game away." 

 

Many area games were delayed Friday night. At Heritage Academy, the teams started play with a mist falling at kickoff. Conditions worsened throughout a first half, which ended with Heritage Academy leading 15-0. 

 

"The defense was dominant tonight," Heritage Academy junior running back/linebacker Kelvin "K.J." Smith said. "That is the biggest thing I learned in this game. We totally stuffed them at the line of scrimmage, which is a good sign. The offense will come." 

 

In the second half, the Patriots scored twice on the first five offensive plays. 

 

Junior quarterback Carter Putt was 5 of 6 in the second half, after a 6-for-17 ledger in the first half. Receivers were open on some occasions, but a wet football affected timing. A few passes also were dropped. 

 

"As receivers it's our job to go up there and get the football," junior wide receiver / defensive back Jared Long said. "It was difficult to play in the rain, but you can't use that as an excuse. If the ball is in the air, we got to find a way to make a play." 

 

Typically, teams abandon the passing game when weather conditions worsen. Harrison and his staff went the other direction, throwing it more until something good finally happened. 

 

The Heritage Academy running game was still in good hands. With Smith running for 101 yards on 12 carries. The Patriots finished with 114 rushing yards. 

 

"Proud of K.J. and the game he had," senior wide receiver / defensive back Moak Griffin said. "He was a surprise in this game, but he ran the ball hard and shook off contact. That was a great thing to see. He has worked hard during practice." 

 

Hard work during practice has been a theme for the Patriots. Harrison's first two squads combined to win 19 games. This season, the Patriots want to break through and win a state championship. 

 

"We feel like we have a team that can win a championship," Griffin said. "This team has put in a lot of hard work during the offseason. Even though we lost some great players last season, we have some younger guys ready to step up. On offense, we just have so many weapons. Tonight, we were great on defense. We need to keep that up. 

 

"Offensively, we feel like we can score some points. We just have to be great on defense, too." 

 

Putt emerged last season as one of the most promising quarterbacks in the MAIS. After a nine-win season in 2017, the Patriots knew what it would take to get him to another level. 

 

"So many days during the summer, (the receivers) were here running routes with Carter," Long said. "He has put in the effort to become a great quarterback. It's our job to be there for him and to make sure we are doing our job, too." 

 

Griffin caught two of Putt's four touchdown passes, while Long and Banks Hyde had one. Putt also had a rushing score. 

 

Kirk Academy was held to 118 yards. An interception by Long set up a score, while a fumble recovery by Weston Lowery did the same. 

 

"We did learn the defense can play the rain," Harrison said, "Write that down as a positive." 

 

Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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