August 14, 2010 11:05:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- The New Hope High School football team showed last season it can win close games.
The Trojans won rain-slogged efforts at Saltillo and at Clarksdale and equally tight games against Hernando and Indianola Gentry en route to a second-place finish in Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 5A, Region 1.
Things were even better in the playoffs.
New Hope edged Jackson Callaway at home and then went on the road to beat Ridgeland. The victories were by a combined eight points.
The Trojans'' road to the state title game ended with a second loss to eventual champion West Point, the only team to beat them last season.
New Hope showed Saturday it learned its 2009 lessons well.
Terrance Dentry scored on an 8-yard run with 58 seconds remaining to lift New Hope to a 13-7 victory against Philadelphia in the fifth and final game of the Fall Football Jamboree at Mississippi State''s Davis Wade Stadium.
"Our guys believe in each other, they believe in themselves, and they believe in what we''re doing," New Hope coach Michael Bradley said. "They never believe they are out of a ballgame. We try to teach our guys to play hard from the first whistle to the last whistle, and, for the most part, they do that.
"I was real pleased they fought as hard as they did after they got down and continued to play. Philadelphia has a fine football team. They are loaded with skill players and have some Division I prospects who are the real deal. They have a great coaching staff, and we''re just real fortunate to get the victory tonight."
New Hope needed 1 minute, 44 seconds to drive 78 yards for the clinching score in the second quarter of the two-quarter varsity event. Led by a senior quarterback Zak Thrasher (6 of 10, 103 yards), the Trojans made the most of Dentry, Johnny Beamon, and Franklin Richardson Jr. to secure the victory. Thrasher hit Richardson Jr. on a 28-yard pass play to open the drive. Dentry (eight carries, 86 yards) broke a 14-yard run to set up an 11-yard run by Richardson Jr. Thrasher then hit Beamon on a 17-yard gain to give the team a first-and-goal. Dentry appeared to catapult himself off the ground and into the end zone on the final run to help the Trojans rally from a 7-0 deficit.
"I thought we did a good job of moving the ball, for the most part, all night," Bradley said. "We had some breakdowns and missed assignments on that second drive when we missed the field goal. We had some breakdowns on the first drive after the big run (a 47-yard run by Dentry) and we thought, ''We''re fixin'' to make this easy.'' I was proud of the way they stuck with the game plan and were able to make some things happen."
Before the drive, Bradley said on the sideline "Let''s go do this." He said that confidence comes from the fact the seniors trust each other and believe in the balance that could be a key to the offense this season.
Thrasher, who is in his third year as a starter, said it is a great feeling knowing he has as many weapons as he does.
"Coach Bradley told me before the game this is the best group of receivers he has had," Thrasher said. "We have to do good things this year."
Bradley also credited his defense for regrouping after Philadelphia needed only eight plays to score the game''s first points. After New Hope took the lead, Philadelphia drove to the New Hope 29 with the help of a pass interference penalty, but it had only one second to set up a final pass play that reached the 8-yard line with no time left.
Thrasher hopes the victory is a first step toward many more big victories. He realizes a possible trip to Jackson, the site of the Class 5A title game, likely will have to go through district rival West Point, but he said the Trojans won''t get ahead of themselves.
"We feel real confident, but we''re going to stay humble," Thrasher said.
New Hope, which rushed for 129 yards, tied the score in the second quarter on a 26-yard pass play from Thrasher to Jo Jo Reeves. The junior linebacker/tight end went up between two defenders and caught the ball despite being interfered with from the side.
The Trojans will have another week to prepare for their first game at Tupelo at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.