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Winston Academy pulls out victory against Heritage


Ray Hollivay, Special to The Dispatch



Harold Wisdom doesn''t have age on his side when it comes time to thinking about past decisions that can help him when a game in on the line. 


But the first-year Winston Academy football head coach didn''t need experience to know his team was going to go for a victory. 


On the road, the decision to eschew a potential game-tying point after kick might have made for a long ride back home to Louisville if it didn''t work. 


Tyler Sullivan made sure the ride home was an enjoyable one. 


The junior quarterback''s conversion run late in the fourth quarter Friday night proved to be the deciding margin in Winston Academy''s 22-21 victory against Heritage Academy. 


"I knew I could do it, and I never have put my heart harder into anything in my life than I did that play," Sullivan said. "Considering the way we played last week and the way we played this week there is no way to go but up." 


Sullivan was 9 of 25 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. He threw scoring strikes of 40 yards to Tyler Golson and 23 yards to Cameron Paschal to help Winston Academy (1-1) bounce back from a season-opening 55-19 loss to Leake Academy last week. 


Wisdom said he opted to go for two points and to try to take the lead because he felt Heritage Academy had more athletes than his team. He said he also wanted to send a message to his kids he believed in them. He credited Sullivan, who rushed for 150 yards on 24 carries, for making the play. 


"Offensively, he is the leader of our team," Wisdom said. "He is a great talent. He is a big kid, and we knew they were going to play man coverage and really bring it and it was going to be hard for us to throw it. We knew if we could block long enough we felt like we could get behind them in the secondary." 


The victory also avenged a 13-12 loss to Heritage Academy last season in Louisville. 


Wisdom, 29, replaced Wyatt Rogers, who resigned as head coach to take a job as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Brandon High. Wisdom played for and coached with former Winston Academy coach Mark Hudspeth at the University of North Alabama. Hudspeth left UNA to become an assistant coach at Mississippi State, which led Wisdom to consider becoming the new head coach at Winston Academy. He had been defensive coordinator at the school. 


Wisdom said he told his players to believe they could regroup after all of the mistakes they made against Leake Academy. On Friday, Winston Academy, which has 13 seniors, rallied to overcome eight penalties. 


Heritage Academy (1-1) used a 31-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Bell to Zach Taylor, a 14-yard run by Bell, and a 2-yard run by John Laws Ferguson to build a lead it took into the fourth quarter. 


But Heritage Academy couldn''t maintain possession to keep the lead. Coach Brad Butler was proud of the way his team played and lamented costly penalties and turnovers that put his team in the hole. He credited his defense for making a stand on the goal line, but his team couldn''t move the ball consistently to get out of the bad field position. 


"I felt as good as anybody could feel when the game came back in the third quarter and we just rammed it at them," Butler said. "I felt like we had them on their heels and that it was time for us to keep on with it. ... We had them on the ropes. They got a new life when we fumbled the ball and their kids stepped up to the challenge. The momentum definitely shifted. I tell these guys there is always going to be some adversity, it is how you deal with that adversity, and it is not just in football, it is in life." 


Butler wasn''t sure if Winston Academy was going to go for two points to take the lead. He said he was thinking about what his team needed to do to score again to put the game away. 


"It was a gutsy call," Butler said. "Last year, we did the same thing and it bit us in the butt. It is one of those things it works out and you''re the heor and then there are times it doesn''t work out and you''re the goat." 


Bell led Heritage Academy with 84 yards rushing on 12 carries, while Laws Ferguson had 64 yards on 10 carries. Bell also was 6 of 13 for 101 yards. 


Butler said his team needs to regroup in a hurry to get ready for a much improved Starkville Academy team that will be looking for its first victory this season. 


"We have to look at the good and keep doing it and look at the bad and do what we need to do to fix it," Butler said. "This one is over with, as bad as it hurts. We can''t let one loss turn into two losses." 




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