Four Down Territory: Tallulah Academy’s still got it; locals helping MAIS teams on state title runs

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, November 13, 2018

You’re in Four Down Territory. Each week we’ll spotlight four notes, nuggets, stats or trends from the weekend that was in Mississippi high school football, college football, and the NFL.

With some roster turnover and a bit of a dropoff last season, it looked like Tallulah Academy might fade back into the pack of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools’ 8-Man football ranks.
Or maybe not.

The Trojans blew out Prairie View Academy 52-20 last Friday to advance to the state championship game for the fourth time in five seasons. They’ll go for their third title in four years Saturday morning at 11, when they take on Manchester Academy. The game will be played at Jackson Academy.

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Tallulah won one game in 2013, its last in the 11-man division. Since then it has gone 52-8 and won the state title in 2015 and 2016. It has a 12-0 record this season — only one game has been closer than 26 points — and can cap off its second undefeated season in three years by beating Manchester (12-0).

Another championship would firmly cement Tallulah Academy as the most dominant program in the relatively brief history of the 8-Man division. Since it was added in 2009, no school has won more than two championships.

Tallulah’s fourth trip to the title game is also a record, breaking a tie with Sharkey-Issaquena Academy — which, ironically, beat Tallulah for the 2014 title and was the division’s major force before the Trojans.

“It’s that pride and the dynasty behind it, too,” Tallulah coach Annon Etheridge said. “These boys expect to do it, and when you get some guys that expect to get there, that want to get there, that know how to get there, that’s the biggest part about it.”

Former St. Aloysius star Ben Brown earned a spot on Ole Miss’ offensive line with a strong spring and summer. He’s entrenching himself there with a remarkable season.

Brown, a redshirt freshman who has started every game this season at right guard, has not allowed a sack in Ole Miss’ first 10 games. He is the only guard in the Southeastern Conference with at least 100 pass blocks to his credit to achieve that feat this season.

Two perennial Mississippi high school football powers extended impressive streaks in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.

Oak Grove beat Harrison Central 45-14 for its 13th consecutive victory in the first round, while Madison Central routed Oxford 35-3 for its 10th consecutive first-round win. Oak Grove’s streak started in 2002, and Madison Central’s in 2008.

Twenty of the 32 teams currently in Class 6A do not have a first-round winning streak at all after last Friday. Oak Grove and Madison Central are the only two in double digits, and the next closest teams are Starkville and Pearl at five each.

Hancock and Horn Lake are the only teams in Region 1-6A and 4-6A with an active first-round winning streak. Hancock did not qualify for the playoffs this year and its streak is at one.

Horn Lake — which beat Warren Central 19-0 last Friday night  — is the only Class 6A team that has never lost a first-round game. It has made four postseason appearances since the state playoff system was adopted in 1984 and won its opener every time.

Unfortunately for Oak Grove and Madison Central, the early-round success has not often been the first step on the road to a state championship. They’ve only won one title apiece in their respective histories.

Oak Grove has made four appearances in the state title game, with its one win in 2013. Madison Central reached the semifinals eight times in the past 10 years, but its one state title was in 1999 — also its only appearance in the championship game.

All of Warren County’s high school football teams are finished for the season, but some of their alumni are still striving for a championship.

Vicksburg natives Will Vollor, John Weaver and and John Baker will all be with teams participating in MAIS state championship games this weekend in Jackson.

Vollor is an assistant coach at Lamar School, which will face Simpson Academy for the Class AAAA Division II title Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at Jackson Academy. Lamar has won the classification’s two state titles.

Weaver, a former Warren Central star and Porter’s Chapel Academy head coach, is now in his eighth season as an assistant at Madison-Ridgeland Academy. He’ll help the Patriots try to knock off six-time defending champion Jackson Prep in the Class AAAA-Division I title game Friday at 6 p.m. at Mississippi College.

Baker, meanwhile, is in his 10th season as Greenville-St. Joseph’s head coach. He and the Irish will try for their second Class AA championship in a row when they play Centreville Academy Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Jackson Academy.

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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