Photo by Chris Todd

Photo Gallery At The End Of The Article

Photos By Hays Collins, Brandon Jackson, and Chris Todd

By Robert Wilson

The majority of Mississippi high school football coaches go their entire careers without winning a state championship.

Friday afternoon at Jackson Academy’s Raider Field, Canton Academy’s coach Gage Posey won his first state title at the young age of 28.

Posey, in his second year as Canton’s head coach and third year in the coaching profession (he spent one year at Pillow Academy as an assistant), led his team to a convincing, 47-14 victory over Central Holmes Christian School for the MAIS Class 3A state championship before an estimated 500 fans.

Photo by Chris Todd

Canton Academy finished the season with a 12-1 record and won its last seven games. The Panthers’ only loss this season was to MAIS Class 4A runner-up Tri-County Academy. Canton Academy defeated Central Holmes 48-27 in the next game to start its winning streak. Canton Academy reached the state title game for the second year in a row. The Panthers lost to nationally ranked Greenville Christian, considered one of the best teams in MAIS history, in last year’s state championship game. This was Canton Academy’s fifth state title in school history, winning in 1987, 1995, 1996 and 2016. 

Central Holmes finished with a 6-7 record. It surprised two-time defending 3A state champion Greenville Christian 33-32 in the semifinals. This was Central Holmes’ first state championship appearance since 1988 when it won the title. The Trojans lost their four games but won six of its last eight games before Friday.

Canton Academy – which had scored more than 40 points in each game during its winning streak – did it again in the state championship and hit the 40-point mark at halftime. 

Sophomore quarterback Madden Gerald completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Bert Goodloe and junior Chris Hunter added the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 Canton Academy lead. Gerald raced for a 97-yard TD and senior EJ Luckett added the 2-point conversion for a 16-0 lead after the end of the first quarter.

Gerald completed a 51-yard TD pass to Luckett and Hunter added the 2-point conversion, Gerald completed a 42-yard TD pass to Hunter and Luckett added the 2-point conversion and Goodloe returned a punt 62 yards for TD and Luckett added the 2-point conversion as Canton Academy led 40-7 after two quarters.

Photo by Brandon Jackson

Hunter scored on a 60-yard run and Drew Sandberg added the extra point to give Canton Academy a 47-7 lead with 6 minutes, 45 seconds to play in the third quarter.

Madden completed 7 of 12 passes for 156 yards and three TDs and ran two times for 99 yards and one TD, all in the first half. Hunter, who injured his ankle early in the first quarter, finished with 103 yards on 10 carries and one TD and caught one pass for 42 yards and one TD. Hunter finished the season with 2,263 yards on 134 carries, an amazing average of 16.9 yards per carry, and 34 total TDs.

Senior linebacker Samuel Wafford led Canton Academy’s defense with nine tackles. He finished with 96 tackles for the season.

Central Holmes junior quarterback John Ward scored on an 8-yard run in the second quarter and junior running back Lamarion Buchanan scored on a 9-yard run in the fourth quarter. Dan Lindsey kicked both extra point attempts.

“We had a no-lose mentality all year,” said Posey, who is a Brookhaven Academy, Hinds Community College, Mississippi State and William Carey graduate. “Our kids developed a mindset to where they took offense to anyone that wanted to step on the field with them. Some call them overconfident, I like to say they are relentlessly optimistic. They expected to dominate every game and we did that most of the year. Our senior leadership stepped up – CJ Luckett and Bert Goodloe – with Chris Hunter favoring his ankle and they gave us some big plays to spark the rest of the team. I’m really proud of Madden and the way he handled a new system and his competitiveness. This was a team effort.”