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Virden, MRA beat Heritage on somber night


Ray Hollivay Jr. Special to the Dispatch



Myres Virden rushed for 137 yards and four touchdowns Friday to lead the Madison-Ridgeland Academy football team to a 34-6 victory against Heritage Academy on what turned out to be a somber evening. 


News that 17-year-old Heritage Academy student Spencer Perkins, who shot himself earlier in the week in a hunting accident in Noxubee County, died Friday night in Jackson, spread throughout the field and left many in the Patriots'' family shaken. 


Perkins, who was a forward on the school''s boys soccer team, had been at the hospital since Sunday. He had been dove hunting with his twin brother and father on family-owned property near Brooksville when he dropped his shotgun, causing it to go off. 


Heritage Academy football coach Brad Butler said he and his players didn''t know about Perkins until they came out of the locker room at halftime. 


"With the way the whole night was, as far as the second half it felt like a dream," Butler said. 


Somehow, though, Heritage Academy (3-2) fought back from a 14-0 halftime deficit to score first in the third quarter. Cade Lott, who replaced an injured Brandon Bell at quarterback, broke off a 73-yard touchdown run. The extra point failed, but the Patriots seemed to have the momentum trailing only 14-6. 


But Virden proved too tough to stop. He scored on a 9-yard run in the third quarter and on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter to help make it 28-6. 


"We had a hard time stopping them late in the game," Butler said. "We started rushing a little bit." 


Butler didn''t use the somber atmosphere at the field or the fact that many of the Patriots were friends of Perkins for the loss. But the second-year head coach put it best when he said, "There are bigger things to life than football." 


Earlier in the evening, Heritage Academy received its first bad news when Bell, the junior quarterback, went down with a foot injury. The transfer from Caledonia High had gained 14 and 9 yards on his first two plays. He fell over a couple of defenders after the 9-yard burst and then walked off the field, although Butler said he probably shouldn''t have. Butler said Bell and the Patriots quickly discovered the injury was more serious than originally feared. Unfortunately, he said Bell will miss the rest of the season. 


"It is a weird deal. Nobody even knows how it happened. He doesn''t even know how it happened," Butler said. "There is nothing we can see on the film (that would tell us how it happened)." 


Butler said the injury was doubly disappointing because the effectiveness of the first two plays showed promise for the Patriots, who wound up hurting themselves with two turnovers in the first half that Virden cashed in for touchdown runs of 3 and 40 yards. 


"The turnovers just killed us," Butler said.  


Still, Butler was pleased with the performance of Lott, who rushed for 118 yards on 18 carries. Hunter Buxton also added 34 rushing yards for the Patriots, who already have lost senior running back John Laws Ferguson for the season with a left foot injury. 


Butler said Lott will take over at quarterback the rest of the season. 


"I told him after the game I know we put you in a bad situation," Butler said. "It is difficult when you are thrown in the middle of a game and don''t get the reps that your first-string quarterback does. I told him I appreciated the job he did considering the situation we put you in." 


Butler said Lott, a sophomore, is more comfortable at quarterback in an I formation set, but the Patriots will have to see what offense works best for the pieces they have remaining. Butler likes the leadership ability Lott will bring to quarterback. 


"He''s a good player, has played a lot of football, and has led teams to undefeated seasons and to championships, so we expect him to pick up where he left off as the junior high quarterback and to keep on rolling," Butler said. 


As for Heritage Academy, Butler hopes his team will be able to put its last game behind it and handle what could be another somber week this week. On Friday, Heritage Academy will play at Presbyterian Christian. 






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