Quarterback Mack Howard threw three touchdown passes to Mitchell Woodard and ran for another score to lead the Heritage Academy football team to a 31-12 win over Starkville Academy on Friday in the MAIS Class 5A quarterfinals in Columbus.
The Volunteers started the game aggressively, stringing together a couple of nice early drives before stalling in Patriots territory. But penalties proved costly, putting the Vols into tough third-down situations.
The Patriots went to work in the second quarter, looking to take advantage of the defensive stands they were getting. They finally started to find a rhythm through the air. A 30-yard pss play set up first-and-goal for Heritage, and after a penalty and a fumbled handoff Howard righted the ship and hit Woodard for a score on third-and-5.
Heritage intercepted SA quarterback Randal Futral on the next possession and doubled the lead on a 1-yard jump pass from Howard to Woodard on fourth down.
A 40-yard kickoff return by Charlie Nicholas set up the Vols at midfield. They went for it on fourth down from the Heritage 42, just getting the first down, and then Futral launched a 40-yard touchdown pass to Wyatt Buice to cut the Heritage lead to 14-6.
The Vols stopped the Patriots’ next drive near midfield, but the Heritage punt pinned them at their own 5 with 1:28 to play before halftime. A 40-yard pass was ruled out of bounds and the Vols had to punt, but they got the ball back after a fumbled snap on third down gave them another shot on the Heritage 35 with 14 seconds left in the half.
An 18-yard pickup and a roughing the passer penalty set up the Vols at the 9 with 5 seconds to go. A field goal pulled SA within 14-9 at the break.
The Pats received to start the second half, and got a 33 yard pick up through Wesley Miller on the first play of the drive. They drove into the red zone, where Howard found Woodard once again for a score through the air, their third such connection of the night.
The Vols drove into the red zone on their next drive, but a sack on third-and-8 forced them into a field goal try, which was good from 32 yards for a 21-12 game late in the third quarter.
The Vols got a stop early on the next drive, but a penalty after the play gave the Patriots a first down. They took advantage and drove to the 1 yard line. Two penalties — the first wiping out a touchdown — turned first-and-goal at the 1 to second-and-goal at the 20 going into the fourth quarter. They wound up having to settle for a field goal, good from 29 yards to make it a 12-point game.
Heritage came up with a stop on fourth down at midfield, got in the red zone on another Howard-to-Woodard pass and put away the game on Howard’s 4-yard TD run midway through the fourth.
Out of timeouts and down three scores, the Vols still drove into the red zone before the Patriots again stopped them on fourth down. Heritage then ran out the clock to advance.
The second-seeded Patriots next will face No. 3 seed Oak Forest Academy, a 30-22 winner over Simpson Academy on Friday night, in the MAIS Class 5A semifinals on Friday in Columbus.
Heritage Academy (10-1) 0 14 7 10 — 31
Starkville Academy (7-5) 0 9 3 0 — 12
HA — Mitchell Woodard 4 pass from Mack Howard (Sharp kick), 11:19
HA — Woodard 1 pass from Howard (Sharp kick), 7:12
SA — Wyatt Buice 40 pass from Randal Futral (kick failed), 4:28
SA — Dylan Miller 26 FG
HA — Woodard 19 pass from Howard (Sharp kick), 10:04
SA — Miller 32 FG
HA — Sharp FG 29, 11:48
HA — Howard 4 run (Sharp kick), 5:59