MAIS Class 1A champ Sharkey-Issaquena Academy cancels 2024 football season

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Sharkey-Issaquena Academy walked off the football field last season as state champions. It’ll be a while before they walk back on.

SIA head coach and athletics director Matt Homan said the school has canceled its 2024 football season because it does not have enough players to compete.

Graduation, transfers and other factors left SIA with only seven players on the roster, Homan said. Even with playing in the Mid-South Association of Independent Schools’ eight-man division, it was not enough.

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“I had seven juniors coming back. Some of them didn’t want to play, some left, and one of my 10th-graders left. That knocked me down to seven players pretty quick and you have to have eight to start a game. You’ve got to have numbers,” Homan said.

Sharkey-Issaquena won the MAIS Class 1A championship last season, finishing with a 12-1 record capped by a thrilling 32-26 come-from-behind victory over Calhoun Academy in the state championship game.

SIA rallied from a 20-point deficit and scored the winning touchdown on Gary Jackson’s 35-yard run as time expired.
Eight seniors graduated from that team, however, and combined with the other losses it barely left Homan with enough players to practice with, let alone play with.

Homan said the physical demands on a small-school team in which most players play both offense and defense was another factor in the decision. Even the addition of a few more players would’ve meant enduring a 10-game season with a dangerously thin roster.

“We just didn’t have enough bodies. We had a big class last year and a bunch of them graduated. We just didn’t have enough to safely play the game of football,” Homan said. “Football is a pretty violent sport. People don’t realize something about eight-man. These kids play 125 snaps. Maybe 150. You just can’t do that much to a kid. It’s too hot. At some point somebody has to take responsibility.”

Last year’s championship was SIA’s third in 13 seasons of eight-man football — it also won in 2013 and 2014 — but the program has also struggled with numbers in recent years. It finished with a 2-8 record in 2022 and had to forfeit a playoff game because of a lack of healthy players.

Homan said a number of factors, including the up-and-down farming economy of rural Rolling Fork and the March 2023 tornado that devastated the small town have also contributed to the school’s struggles to field a team.

“We’ve been struggling for five years, and I think the tornado had a lot to do with it,” Homan said. “There’s a lot of external factors. You can just pick a reason and it’s probably out there.”

SIA’s decision to cancel the season will leave its opponents with open dates. SIA was scheduled to face Tallulah Academy on Oct 4 and Porter’s Chapel Academy on Oct. 11.

Tallulah Academy coach Bart Wood said Columbus Christian is dropping from 11-man to eight-man football this season and has reached out to him and several other coaches about filling SIA’s dates on the schedule. Porter’s Chapel coach Blake Purvis also said Columbus Christian is a possible opponent for the Oct. 11 game.

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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