October 29, 2010 10:02:00 AM
The playoffs might be out of the question, but that doesn''t mean the Heritage Academy football team will have nothing at stake at 7 tonight when it plays host to Clarksdale Lee Academy (2-8) in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Class AAA, Division I regular-season finale for both teams.
Heritage Academy is coming off a 30-10 victory against Washington last week in Greenville.
Quarterback Cade Lott threw for 230 yards, including a 71-yard scoring strike to Parker Dunaway. Lott also had a 34-yard for a touchdown.
"He just seemed like he was much more comfortable Friday night," Heritage Academy coach Brad Butler said of Lott, a sophomore. "He had some success early and he got a little confidence and just ran from there. We were able to protect him well and threw some on some early downs to keep the pressure off him a little bit. Once we start connecting, it just went on from there."
Strong efforts by Glenn Akins (156 receiving yards) and Stance Henderson, who had a 29-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, helped the Patriots (4-6, 2-4 division) snap a five-game losing skid.
A host of injuries, particularly ones that knocked out senior running back John Laws Ferguson and junior quarterback Brandon Bell, helped ruin playoff dreams the Patriots had this season.
But Butler has praised the fight of his players, and he wants them to close the season on a winning streak to help build momentum for a healthier 2011 campaign.
Butler said there wasn''t a lot different from last week''s victory than any of the team''s other games.
He said the Patriots appeared to be more comfortable and then played with more confidence after each made play. He said he was extremely proud with the attitude the players delivered last week, especially considering the team was mired in a losing streak that was growing to the proportions of last season.
Heritage Academy lost its final eight games and finished 3-8 last season.
"Our defense came up with a big stop (after a fumble in the red zone early in the game), and I think our offense decided, ''Hey, the defense showed up to play and we need to keep up with them,''" Butler said.
The Patriots hope the same is true tonight. Butler also wants to see his players execute at the same level. He said things tend to change for the better when players make big plays, especially at key junctures of he game.
"He said developing the confidence to play at that level every game will be key for the Patriots for next season when a junior-laden cast is expected to return.
"The other night it all just kind of clicked," Butler said. "Sometimes you take for granted an offensive lineman making a play.
"They were sending pressure off the edge and (our right guard Matthew Morrison) is checking inside and then getting back to the outside to make that block. If he doesn''t get that block we never can see the end result of that play.
"I hope this is going to carry on and it isn''t going to be a one-night thing. I hope the younger guys saw, ''Hey, we can do this and get that confidence and realize this is what it takes to win ballgames at this level."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.