By James Beasley
There’s an old saying that good things come in small packages. Never was that truer than last Friday night when Copiah Academy kicker Brandon Baker, who’s generously listed at 5’10” and 165 pounds, kicked a 30-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter to put the Colonels ahead of Parklane Academy 23-20. The senior Hillcrest Christian transfer then sealed the win with a diving interception in the final minute of play.
Baker wasn’t CA’s only hero. Two minutes earlier, the Pioneers’ Justin Brent was on his way to an apparent touchdown when Copiah’s Adam Pitts caught him and stripped the ball, allowing freshman teammate Cooper Henry to recover a fumble at the Colonels’ 4-yard line. And in the first half, senior running back Kelton Smith scored a pair of TD’s, one on a 91-yard pitch in the waning seconds of the first quarter – and the other on a 5-yard TD run in the second period that was set up when CA’s Ty Quick picked up a Pioneer fumble and advanced it to the Parklane 13-yard line. Baker kicked the PAT’s each time, putting the Colonels up 14-0.
Parklane finally got on the scoreboard after forcing Copiah to punt from deep within its own territory. Brent fielded the ball near midfield and raced 45 yards for a touchdown with 3:58 remaining until halftime. Zack McDaniel added the PAT, cutting the deficit to 14-7.
However, Copiah responded three plays later when quarterback Barron Miller connected with wide receiver Adam Pitts for a 57-yard touchdown that gave the Colonels a 20-7 lead. The PAT attempt was blocked. That proved to be the halftime margin after Barry Blackwell intercepted a Pioneer pass in the end zone with 3 seconds remaining.
“We were smoking on all cylinders in the first half,” CA head coach Scotty Cline said afterwards. “We kind of relaxed in the third quarter, and it ended up tied.”
After stopping the Colonels to open the second half, Parklane moved the ball deep into Copiah territory when Ryan Cothern raced 33 yards down to the CA 15. Two plays later, he took it into end zone from 11 yards out to cut the lead to 20-13. On their next possession, Pioneer quarterback Zach Stutzman threw a 69-yard TD pass to Taylor Burt, and McDaniel booted the PAT to tie the game 20-20 with 2:52 remaining in the third period.
Facing 4th-down-and-inches early in the fourth quarter, the Colonels went for it near midfield, but coughed up the ball, and Parklane’s Seth Travis recovered it at the Copiah 43-yard line. At that point, the CA defense stepped up and stopped the Pioneers on 4th-and-2. From there, the Colonels drove for the game-winning field goal, which was set up by Miller’s 36-yard pass to Dillon Martin at the Parklane 21.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Cline said. “It was a great game. They fought and scrapped and found a way to win. Brandon (Baker) made a great kick. That puts us in a winner-take-all next week at East Rankin.”
Kelton Smith once again led the Colonels with 19 carries for 154 of his team’s 191 yards on the ground. In passing, quarterback Barron Miller completed 5 of 9 passes for 97 yards and one TD. Defensively, Quick led the team with 8 tackles, followed by Miller with 7, and Doug Strait and Justin Edwards with 5 tackles each.
Copiah improved its record to 6-4 and heads to Pelahatchie this Friday, where the Colonels will play East Rankin with a playoff spot on the line. The winner will move on, while the loser stays home. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM in the regular season finale for both teams.
MAIS AAA DIV. 2 SOUTH STANDINGS
Starkville Aca. 9-1, 4-1
Copiah 6-4, 2-3
East Rankin 4-6, 1-4
Hillcrest 1-9, 0-6
By James Beasley