Heidelberg tops Tri-County for title

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 17, 2000

Matt Burton of Tri-County, top, tackles Heidelberg running back Heath Ainsworth, who finished with 122 yards and two touchdowns. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

CLINTON On a rainy Thursday afternoon, the dominators were dominated.

Tri-County, which rolled through its schedule and the playoffs while piling up 12 wins, was held to just 75 yards and two first downs by Heidelberg in a 27-7 loss in the Academy-A state championship game at Mississippi College.

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Heidelberg (13-1) controlled the ball and the clock with a dominating performance by its massive offensive line on the muddy field of Robinson-Hale Stadium.

Heidelberg rolled up 291 rushing yards and held the ball for nearly 35 minutes to claim its fifth state championship and first since 1994.

Tri-County (12-2) also finished second in 1996 and 1997.

Heidelberg averaged 41/2 yards per carry on the day and lost yardage on just four plays, including a kneel-down on the final play of the game.

“They were just big and just ran at us all day long. They just kept bringing it, kept bringing it,” said Tri-County senior defensive lineman Brandon Renicker. “We didn’t go out there mentally focused in the first half. We came out in the second half and played a pretty good half of ball then, but it was a little too late. But I had a good time all these years, and we went out pretty much on top.”

Heidelberg coach Tom Lewis, who won his second state title as head coach of the Rebels, said that all things considered, he liked the view from the top better.

“There’s no better feeling,” Lewis said with a smile.

Heath Ainsworth paced Heidelberg with 122 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, while Matt Windham rushed for 139 yards on 27 carries.

Tri-County quarterback Bo Fisher completed 3 of 9 passes for 68 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown to Michael Saxton in the fourth quarter.

“It was our last game and we gave it our best shot, and we just came up short,” Tri-County senior Jeff Johnson said.

“We couldn’t do it. We played as hard as we could, but it just wasn’t going to happen.”

Johnson, the team’s leading rusher with 945 yards entering the game, was held to just 17 yards on six carries but made several big hits on defense from his linebacker spot.

“Those big scoundrels, they got in there on that wet ground and it played right into their hands,” he said.

Heidelberg dominated from the outset.

After holding Tri-County to three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, Heidelberg needed just four plays to go 47 yards for the game’s first score.

Heidelberg quickly moved to the Tri-County 20, where Ainsworth broke through a hole and went 20 yards to give Heidelberg a 6-0 lead.

After another Tri-County three-and-out, Heidelberg went 75 yards in 15 plays, scoring on a 1-yard run by quarterback Derek McKee.

“The reason they ran all over us is they have a pretty good ballclub,” Tri-County defensive coordinator Joe Goolsby said. “I think we have an excellent ballclub. Lewis and them have a good ballclub. It wasn’t anything our kids didn’t do. I’m proud of our kids … They just lined up and kicked our tails.”

Ainsworth added a two-point conversion run to make it 14-0, and Heidelberg added another touchdown before the half on a controversial touchdown pass from McKee to Scott McInnis to make it 21-0.

On fourth-and-13 from the Tri-County 16, McKee threw a pass towards the right corner of the end zone for McInnis. McInnis caught it, but appeared to be straddling the end line when he gained possession. The referee on the far side of the field overruled the referee closer to the play, granting the score to Heidelberg.

Tri-County finally got a first down before halftime, on an 11-yard run by Jeff Johnson with 20 seconds left in the half, but Heidelberg ended any comeback hopes of Tri-County with a 17-play, 71-yard drive to open the second half. Ainsworth capped it with 4-yard TD run with 3:13 to play in the third quarter to make it 27-0.

“I’m not ashamed of our kids. They played hard. We knew they were bigger than us, we knew their type of game was just power and line up. They took a lot of our stuff away from us,” Tri-County head coach Bo Milton said. “Our kids have a lot to be proud of. We were one of the last two teams playing, and that’s what we shoot for every year.”