Tallulah Academy one win from championship game

Published 9:02 am Thursday, November 12, 2015

For nearly a year, ever since they walked off the field losers in the 2014 MAIS eight-man championship game, the Tallulah Academy Trojans have been on a mission to get back there.

The Trojans (10-1) now are one win away — one big, difficult win away — from a return trip and a date with destiny as they host Hebron Christian (8-3) in the eight-man semifinals Friday at 7 p.m.

“That’s all that’s been going on since June, is talking about it. When you get as far as we did last year and don’t finish it, you come back and our goal is to win a state championship. Anything less than that will definitely be a disappointment,” Tallulah coach Bo Barton said. “We want this, and quite frankly we deserve it. As does Hebron Christian.”

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While undefeated Christian Collegiate Academy (11-0) and Kemper Academy (11-0) square off in the other semifinal, this one is a battle of relative Cinderellas.

Tallulah had one winning season in 10 years before joining the MAIS’ eight-man division in 2014, then made a run to the state championship game and has won 16 of 20 games since.

Hebron Christian has been more consistent, with four consecutive winning seasons, but only has 13 players on the roster and entered this year’s playoffs as the No. 7 seed in an eight-team bracket. It upset previously-undefeated Marvell Academy last week in the first round.

Barton said that win was no fluke. Hebron Christian has six players who are taller than 6 feet, and six that are at least 200 pounds. Quarterback Channing Tapley has thrown 32 touchdown passes and only three interceptions in 193 attempts, while running back Landon Hill has 2,448 total yards from scrimmage and has scored 38 touchdowns.

“That’s the thing that makes them click, is size. They’ve got a receiver who’s 6-4, 200 (pounds), and another one that’s 6-2, 190, big linemen, and a lot of kids to go along with that,” Barton said. “Every team they lost to is either still playing or was playing last week. They’re a couple of mistakes away from being undefeated.”

Tallulah, of course, has take on the look not just of a juggernaut, but a team on a mission. Its string of four consecutive games with at least 390 rushing yards was snapped in last week’s first-round win over Franklin Academy, but not because its runners were bottled up. It was because the Trojans only needed 15 offensive plays to score 42 points, and threw passes on a few of them.

Tallulah has scored at least 38 points in every game this season.

“We have every starter back on offense. We should be very good offensively,” Barton said. “When we started off, the question was if that defense could round into form and if we could outscore people. As of late, we’ve played dang good defense and most of the points we’re giving up are in the second half when the game is over and the JV is in there.”

Barton, though, was quick to say that the Trojans aren’t getting cocky despite all of their success over the past two seasons. For proof that all of their championship dreams can disappear in the blink of an eye they need look no further than across the field.

“We certainly like being at home. But when you’re in the semis there’s not too many advantages and disadvantages,” Barton said. “You’ve got to do what you’re supposed to do, and win the game. (Hebron) proved anything can happen in the playoffs.”

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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