Sharkey-Issaquena Academy cruises to another title

Published 1:00 am Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sharkey-Issaquena Academy head coach Hunter McIntyre hoists the 2014 MAIS eight-man championship trophy up for his team after defeating Tallulah Academy Saturday morning at Robinson-Hale Stadium.

Sharkey-Issaquena Academy head coach Hunter McIntyre hoists the 2014 MAIS eight-man championship trophy up for his team after defeating Tallulah Academy Saturday morning at Robinson-Hale Stadium.

CLINTON — When they won the 2013 MAIS eight-man championship, the Sharkey-Issaquena Academy Confederates reined in their celebration as they set their eyes on a repeat.

With a second state title now safely in the books, it’s party time in Rolling Fork.

Jack Martin threw four touchdown passes — three to Victor Villareal — and Austin Steed ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns as SIA routed Tallulah Academy 82-42 Saturday at Mississippi College to win its second consecutive eight-man championship.

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The Confederates (14-0) also finished off their second perfect season in a row by racking up 591 yards of total offense in a dominant performance. They had 10 scoring drives that lasted four plays or less, including five one-play drives.

In addition to Martin and Steed, Cole Delaney ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns on only six carries.

“It’s incredible. This time we actually get to look back. Last year we didn’t get a chance to really enjoy it because we were already planning a repeat. This time, we can relax and enjoy it. The people below us can’t. They’re going to try to be getting back here next year,” said senior quarterback Jack Martin, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 222 yards.

SIA’s impressive performance brought a screeching halt to Tallulah Academy’s Cinderella run to its first state championship game since 1992.

The Trojans (9-2) won one game as an 11-man team in 2013, but ripped off eight straight wins in their first year of eight-man ball to reach the brink of a title. Many players were close to tears as they received their second-place medals and half-heartedly hoisted the runner-up trophy, the dream season brought to an abrupt and nightmarish end.

“It’s our first rodeo. We’re glad to make it this far, but obviously you want to finish it,” Tallulah coach Justin Bigham said. “It wasn’t just one thing. It was a lot of things put together. Credit to Sharkey. They had a good game plan. They had us scouted really well. They’ve got a bunch of kids that can really play some football.”

Ryan Hodge rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns for Tallulah. He broke off a 46-yard TD run on the first play of the game and a 35-yarder on the first play of the second quarter — after taking a desperation lateral from quarterback Mason Todd — to keep the Trojans in it early. Hodge’s second touchdown and ensuing two-point conversion made it 24-22.

Tallulah, however, committed two turnovers and turned it over on downs on its next three possessions. That slight offensive slump, combined with SIA’s ruthless efficiency, allowed the Confederates to expand their two-point lead to 32 by halftime.

SIA scored five touchdowns in the second quarter while running just 11 offensive plays. All five touchdowns covered 40 yards or more, including a 67-yard TD pass from Martin to Villareal as time expired in the half.

Tallulah cut it to 52-28 on a 14-yard TD pass from Todd to David Dixon with 14 seconds left. SIA got the ball back with time for one play, and Martin threw a deep post to Villareal, who beat his defender, caught the ball on his fingertips, and raced to the end zone. A two-point run by Steed made it 60-28 at halftime.

“The play before that, I was asking if I could get a post. I knew I could get him, and it was there,” Villareal said.

Martin threw another touchdown pass to Chandler Ross on the first drive of the third quarter, then ran for one late, and Steed broke off a 51-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to give SIA its biggest lead of the game at 82-34 with 6:57 left in the game.

As the clock counted down toward another championship, Martin said the way the Confederates finished things off, and not just that they did, brought a smile to his face.

“It felt real good because I thought we were about to be sizing up for another ring,” Martin said. “It just showed our team’s determination, how we didn’t let up for one play. Everybody was going as hard as they could every play. Coach Mac (Hunter McIntire) called a great game. The offensive line blocked great. Cole Delaney showed up, Austin Steed always runs hard. It just showed how determined we were.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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