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Vikings fall short in eight-man title game

 

Adam Minichino

 

JACKSON -- Curiosity turned to wonder and then slipped into belief. 

 

There was no way one team that suffered a 54-point loss two weeks earlier could turn around and beat that same team on the state''s biggest stage in the rematch. 

 

Right?  

 

For more than three quarters, the Central Academy football team capitalized on mistakes, took every blow, and dished out more than its share and had Kemper Academy wondering if Thursday was a day for upsets. 

 

But the Rams regained control in the fourth quarter, scoring 32 points to help them pull away for a 56-18 victory in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Eight-Man championship at Patriot Field on the campus of Jackson Prep. 

 

"We played with this Kemper Academy team for three and a half quarters," Central Academy coach Ronnie Sciple said. "We executed our game plan and gave up a couple of big runs, but those kids played their hearts out. I am proud of them." 

 

Tyler Sanderford (18 carries, 184 yards) rushed for two scores and caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to help Kemper Academy conclude a 10-0 season. 

 

Ferris McGuire (16-75) had touchdown runs of 49 and 5 yards and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Will Disbrow to lead the charge for Central Academy (10-2). 

 

Sciple said earlier in the week he was curious to see which team showed up Thursday afternoon. Two weeks earlier, the Rams earned a 54-0 victory against a team Sciple said didn''t resemble the one he had seen all season. Central Academy improved last week in escaping with a 22-20 victory against Tensas Academy (La.), but Sciple still wasn''t sure how his team would react playing for a state title. 

 

The Vikings responded by making the Rams work for everything they got on an unseasonably warm afternoon on the turf. 

 

"I told them on the sidelines our team showed up, not the one that showed up at Kemper," Sciple said. "They played one of their better ballgames. The score is no indication of how proud I am of them. We got beat by a great football team." 

 

Kemper Academy used a series of big plays to earn the title. 

 

The biggest might have come on the final play of the second quarter, leading 8-0, the Rams took a timeout on the Vikings'' 16 with three seconds left. Quarterback Cint Quinn lofted a ball to the left side of the goal line, where Sanderford worked for position with two defenders. Sanderford beat the Central Academy players into the air and came down in the end zone with no time remaining. Johnny Allen''s run made it 16-0. 

 

But the Vikings showed their mettle early in the third quarter. On their opening series of the half, Cole Newman took a shovel pass from McGuire on fourth-and-2 from the Vikings'' 43 and gained 8 yards for the first down. McGuire went right on a sweep on the next play, stopped, and cut diagonally back to his left and raced 49 yards for the score. The conversion failed. 

 

Central Academy added to its momentum when Disbrow recovered an onside kick. A late hit out of bound personal foul by the Rams on third down aided the Vikings'' cause. McGuire hit Rowdy Rigdon on a 17-yard gained on the next third down to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, McGuire beat everyone to the left corner of the end zone to make it 16-12. The conversion pass failed, but all of a sudden it was game on. 

 

"I knew we were going to show up because nobody thought we could do it," McGuire said. "Everybody was doubting us. Everybody figured they would come out here and beat us 54-0, or something like that. Everybody got down here and was pumped up, so I knew it was going to be a close game then." 

 

Kemper Academy answered on the next possession. Sanderford had a 19-yard run on third-and-5 to give the Rams a first-and-goal at the Vikings'' 1. Two plays later, Quinn punched the ball home. Allen''s run pushed it to 24-12. The Rams then recovered a squib kick that deflected off a Viking and needed only two plays before Sanderford ripped off a 43-yard touchdown run. Allen''s run extended the margin to 32-12 and it was game over. 

 

Right? 

 

Central Academy used three passes from McGuire to Disbrow, the first one went for 32 yards and the last one went for 15 and a touchdown. Unfortunately, Newman slipped on the conversion run, which left the score 32-18 with 6 minutes, 30 seconds remaining. 

 

The Vikings would like to forget the final part of the game. 

 

Quinn connected with Sonny Leopard on a 61-yard touchdown pass, Leopard intercepted a pass from Newman on the Vikings'' next possession, and Sanderford caught a 28-yard scoring pass and rushed 24 yards for the final touchdown. 

 

The final score erased any indication the game was so close at one point, but Disbrow said the Vikings had every reason to be proud of their effort, especially when it was them against the rest of the world. 

 

"If we just had a bounce here or there it might have been tied up, or you take three seconds away in the second quarter it would have been 8-0 at halftime," Disbrow said. "I thought we all played hard and proved ourselves." 

 

The game closed the high school football careers of seniors Jay Jones, Disbrow, McGuire, Rigdon, Harrison Hadaway, Matt Taylor, Alonzo Rodriguez, and Will Sciple. 

 

Coach Sciple praised the effort of all of those players for helping set the tone and for giving everyone the confidence the Vikings could pull the upset. Three Kemper Academy turnovers in the first half provided hope and gave Central Academy reason to believe, only to see the Rams steal it right back in the second half. 

 

As much as it hurt after the game, McGuire and Disbrow hope the returning players can use the loss as a lesson. 

 

"I like how the juniors stepped up. They all showed out as much as the seniors did today," McGuire said. 

 

Said Disbrow, "We worked all year to get here, and if you put the effort toward it you can make it here. We''re losing a lot of experienced guys, but they have some playmakers coming back next year. I think they should be really good next year."

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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