New Hope wideout Malachi Clay runs for a touchdown during a high school football game Friday in New Hope. Photo by: Garrick Hodge/Dispatch Staff
August 23, 2019 10:52:22 PM
NEW HOPE - The happiest locker room in the state of Mississippi after the opening night of high school football may have resided in New Hope.
It's been a long time since the Trojans felt as accomplished as they did following their 21-8 victory over in-county rival Caledonia Friday at Trojan Field. Last year's one-win campaign was difficult for everyone involved, including having to swallow a Week 5 loss to the Confederates for the first time since 2004.
But after avenging last year's defeat to its arch rival and matching its win total from 2018, New Hope's sideline was jubilant all around.
"It feels good for this New Hope team and this community," second-year New Hope coach Wade Tackett said. "We spent the whole offseason with eyes on this game, circling the calendar on the wall. We're just really happy to be 1-0."
With the victory, New Hope clinched a season-opening victory for the first time since 2016.
"This gives us so much confidence," Trojans running back Braylen Miller said. "This is the game we wanted the most."
Caledonia struck first Friday night, capping off its opening drive with a five-yard touchdown run from quarterback Brandon Edmondson on fourth down for the season's first score. Following a failed two-point conversion, New Hope wide receiver Malachi Clay took the ensuing kickoff 78 yards to put the Trojans back in front, 7-6.
"I just saw a big hole," Clay said. "I had to run through it. I'm just thinking, 'Man, they just scored,' so we had to get that one back."
After a Caledonia fumble, Miller added to his team's slim lead by diving into the end zone from two yards out for the Trojans' second score of the night.
The only scoring of the second quarter happened in unusual fashion. With the ball deep in his own territory, New Hope quarterback Ryan Burt felt pressure coming in his own territory and retreated back to the end zone. With Caledonia defensive ends closing in, Burt desperately flung a pass at the feet of his offensive linemen, leading the referee to call intentional grounding. Because the penalty was called in the end zone, a safety was awarded to Caledonia, leading to the final points of the night for the Confederates.
At halftime, New Hope clung to a 14-8 lead despite being outgained 127-12.
"We had a sloppy field and it wasn't optimal conditions by any means," Tackett said. "I feel like it slowed both teams down and it hindered our speed in the first half."
Caledonia began the second half with a drive that took nearly nine minutes off the clock and had New Hope on its heels with a series of plays that brought the Confederates to the 4-yard line. That's when things went south.
Following a fumble, a false start and a run that went for a loss, Caledonia saw a series that started with so much promise end with a missed 28-yard field goal attempt.
"That's big-time disappointing," Caledonia coach Michael Kelly said. "We pride ourselves on being able to run the football. I thought we did a great job of making second half adjustments, and if we punched that thing it, it would have been a big momentum swing. But we didn't and it came back to hurt us in the end."
Clay put the final nail in Caledonia's coffin by taking an outside sweep 27 yards for a touchdown that gave New Hope a two-score lead, 21-8.
Miller led the way for New Hope offensively with 22 carries for 125 yards and a touchdown, while Clay ran for 33 yards on two carries.
Caledonia outgained the Trojans 219-153, but lost the turnover battle 3-0.
Edmondson ran for 98 yards on 28 carries that included a five-yard touchdown run and completed 3 of 10 passes for 64 yards with one interception. Wideout Darquez Williams caught one pass for 38 yards.
New Hope (1-0) is back in action at 7 p.m. Friday against Shannon in a road matchup, while Caledonia (0-1) faces Aberdeen at home.
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