Friday night was a good night for Heritage Academy football.
The humid, late summer Mississippi evening air, the muffled loudspeaker voice and the Friday night lights set the stage for the defending state champion Patriots. Their opponent, Lamar School, came in motivated to get a win after falling short in a late comeback attempt last week against Starkville Academy.
The Patriots (1-0) had to be focused from the start against a team that already had one game under their belt, and they didn’t disappoint in a 45-16 win over the Raiders (0-2).
The very first play from scrimmage set the tone for the rest of the game. Running back Jay Stevenson took a pitch from quarterback Jack Ketchum, broke a tackle and rumbled 34 yards down the sideline before being pushed out.
The crowd welcomed the Patriots newcomer with cheers on his very first play — and applauded him for nearly all the rest of the time he was on the field.
“This was my first game, and I just came in knowing I had to show out, come out and go hard in my first game at Heritage,” Stevenson said after his breakout debut performance, in which he racked up over 200 yards on the ground, a pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
“With my O-line I already knew it was going to happen; I knew it was going to happen tonight. I knew it would be special because we worked so hard this summer, and we were unstoppable all summer.”
Patriots head coach Lance Pogue was quick to praise his team after getting his first win with the program, and while he knows there are ways to improve, he was otherwise happy with a complete performance in Week 1.
“I’m happy anytime you can win,” Pogue said. “These are hard to come by — the other team wants to win, too — but we made some big plays tonight. Some guys not a lot of people knew about made some big plays, like Jay and some others. And in all three phases of the game we did really well. Kicking game was good, played well on defense, offense was explosive, and I think we can clean things up, but it’s a great, positive win that we can build on.”
All three phases were certainly firing early for the Patriots. Stevenson scored touchdowns of 55 and 11 yards in the first half, Luke Fisher made a field goal and had a 16-yard rushing touchdown, and Jack Ketchum found Trey Naugher for a 20-yard passing score.
As the offense was busy putting the game out of reach, the defense was busy protecting the lead. They created three turnovers — two interceptions by Cameron Kidd and one by Trey Naugher — and held the Raiders to either a field goal attempt or a turnover on downs on three separate long drives.
The insurance of their defense didn’t slow down the powerful Patriots offense, though, and even though Stevenson stole the show early, Luke Fisher remained a force from the backfield throughout the game, and the connection of Ketchum to Naugher — who hit on a 27-yard touchdown in the third quarter as well — really exploited the Raiders defense when they had to try and stop the run.
“We’re an explosive offensive team,” Pogue said. “We can throw it, we can run it, and when you find balance like that, that’s the key. If they load the box to stop the run, we know we can hit them on the outside, and if they play coverage we can run the ball. Our coaches did a good job finding the plays to put our guys in a position to be successful.”
The Patriots, now 1-0 on the year, look ahead to next Friday’s road trip to face Jackson Prep before their next home game against East Union on Sept. 2.
Heritage Academy 45, Lamar School 16
Heritage Academy (1-0) 10 23 12 0 — 45
Lamar School (0-2) 3 6 0 7 — 16
HA — Luke Fisher 21 FG, clock 10:00
HA — Jay Stevenson 55 run (Fisher kick), clock 7:51
LS — Jonathan Hart 1 run (kick failed), clock 5:15
HA — Stevenson 11 run (Fisher kick), clock 11:50
LS — Coleman Clay 26 FG, clock 9:00
HA — Fisher 16 run (Stevenson run), clock 7:43
HA — Trey Naugher 20 pass from Jack Ketchum (Fisher 2-pt run good), clock 0:25
HA — Naugher 27 pass from Ketchum (kick failed), clock 9:13
HA — Fisher 32 run (kick failed), clock 0:20
LS — JaMichael Jackson 4 run (Clay kick), clock 7:44
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.