September 12, 2010 12:54:00 AM
The toughness Brad Butler has been looking for in the Heritage Academy football team surfaced in a big way Friday night.
Led by a strong defensive effort and a key fourth-down conversion in the fourth quarter, quarterback Brandon Bell scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard plunge to help lift Heritage Academy to a 22-14 victory against the Lamar School.
"I thought both teams played hard," Lamar School coach Mac Barnes said. "I thought the difference in the game was their toughness. They broke tackles time after time against, and I really think their quarterback is an outstanding player. He is a tough player to tackle."
Bell led the Patriots, who played without senior running back John Laws Ferguson, with 110 yards on 24 carries. He also was 8 of 12 for 86 yards with two interceptions.
The key sequence came in the third quarter with Lamar School leading 14-10. The Patriots capitalized on a fumble to take over at their 38. Bell connected with Parker Dunaway on a 16-yard pass play to kick-started the push. Bell then added runs of 12, 8, and three yards before Stance Henderson had 13 yards on two runs and Zach Taylor added a 2-yard run to push the game into the fourth quarter.
Henderson gained 3 yards on third down to set the stage for a fourth-and-2 play with a little more than 11 minutes remaining in the game. Bell found Dunaway for a 2-yard gain that gave the Patriots just enough to keep the drive alive.
"I got to the end of the coaches box and looked at a manager and asked him, ''What do you think?'' " Butler said. "He said, ''Coach, we got it.'' I said, ''Are you sure or are you just wishing?'' It was just enough. Those are some big plays on fourth down we got and I am looking at the time and looking at the score and wondering, ''Do we need to kick a field goal?'' There are a lot of things going on and you only have 25 seconds to make a play call. When your guys are playing hard they make you look smart sometimes. They played hard enough to get that extra inch we need."
Bell gained 3 yards on first down and then plunged ahead 1 more yard on the next play to help Heritage Academy take a 16-14 lead.
Bell, a junior transfer from Caledonia High, threw two interceptions but did a good job shaking off that frustration to lead his team down the field.
"Coach told me I just had to try my best and get back in there, and that''s what I did," Bell said. "We just said we''re going to have to suck it up and come out here and do our best."
Butler credited his players for their effort on a night when they overcame plenty of obstacles. He said the patriots took advantage of the Raiders in the rushing game just enough times to move the ball in key spots, especially in the second half.
"We came out and stayed with our game plan," Butler said. "The defense was lights out there when they had to. It''s a big win for these guys. We had a lot of guys banged up and they showed their guts there at the end."
Cade Lott''s 23-yard run in the final moments helped push the margin to eight points. A failed conversion gave the Raiders life -- and created some anxious moments for Butler -- but the score stayed the same.
Barnes congratulated Heritage Academy for helping to force two fumbles. He said his team didn''t do a good job preparing all week and needs to grow up.
"They played well," Barnes said. "We have a lot of growing up to do if we are even going to think about making the playoffs (in Class AA)."
On the other hand, Heritage Academy, a Class AAA school, won its second game in a row coming back from a one-point loss to Winston Academy. The players talked earlier in the week about erasing the memory of losses to Lamar School and Madison-Ridgeland Academy last season that transformed a 3-0 start into a 3-8 finish.
One game won''t secure a playoff victory, especially against a team in a different classification, but Heritage Academy will try to build on its run next week when it takes on MRA.
"We had a good week of practice this week, and we just have to work harder next week," Bell said.
Said Butler, "We just have to keep playing hard. We''re smaller than about everybody we''re going to play. I told them a long time ago that when you''re undersized you have to play harder than everybody else. .If we''re going to keep this thing rolling, we have to play harder than everybody we play each Friday night."
1. MSU's Jung wears No. 3 to honor great-grandmother COLLEGE SPORTS
2. Victory Christian shows it has potential to have dominating D line HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
3. Starkville Academy earns redemption against Lamar School HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
4. Gray leds Heritage Academy past Kirk Academy HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS
5. Starkville's ground game too much for Noxubee County HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS