By Robert Wilson
Hartfield Academy is one of the fastest growing schools in the MAIS and Friday night the Hawks had a historic victory in their athletic program.
Hartfield defeated previously undefeated Presbyterian Christian School 42-14 in Hattiesburg for its first MAIS Class 6A victory, the first time the school has played in and won in the highest football classification in the MAIS.
“Getting that first 6A conference win was special,” first-year Hartfield athletic director David Sykes said. “I hope that is the first of many more to come.”
And the way Hartfield is playing, it will be. The Hawks have cruised in their first four games, defeating Clinton Christian 49-7, Magnolia Heights 35-7, Pillow 49-0 and now PCS. That’s an average victory margin of 36.7 points per game.
Senior running back Xavier Davis for the fourth straight game was almost unstoppable, with 242 yards and four touchdowns on 15 carries, an average of 16.1 yards per carry. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Davis now has 559 yards and nine TDs on 31 carries, an average of 18 yards per carry. Tanner Welch, a 6-8, 305-pound junior offensive lineman, was one of four sophomores among the 50 players selected to the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard All Metro Jackson team last season. And then there is talented senior quarterback Cruz Garner, who played a variety of positions during his career at Hartfield. Garner has passed for 437 yards and six TDs.
The leaders on the stingy Hartfield defense are senior middle linebacker Cooper Stroud, senior defensive end Jay Smith and junior Gage Sorey. Also, one of the up-and-coming players on defense is sophomore linebacker and Terry High transfer Chris Jones. Jones led Hartfield with nine tackles and two sacks against PCS.
Hartfield has 11 returning starters from last year’s 8-4 team, which lost 42-35 to eventual 5A state champion Leake Academy in the playoffs. Hartfield hasn’t lost since and now made history Friday night.
“I am proud of the team and the dedication they have to preparing to play in a game this big,” Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said. “Making the move into 6A has required a certain kind of training and dedication that we have been building towards over the past couple of years. We played hard and played together tonight. Our offensive and defensive fronts played well against a talented PCS team. I am grateful to be a part of this school and community.”
This is Hartfield’s 10th year as a school. University Christian School and Pinelake School both closed and combined assets to create a new school. Hartfield’s first graduating class had 18 students in 2012. Hartfield is scheduled to graduate 73 this year, four times as many as in 2012. Hartfield’s current K-12 enrollment is 1,135.
“Every two years it seems like we have moved up in a sports classification,” Hartfield head of school David Horner said. “I am incredibly proud of our investment our coaches and families have made into growing our athletic programs. It took tremendous work, but our football program is in a place to be competitive each week despite being in our first year of 6A.”
Hartfield plays Class 5A Bayou, 4-0, Friday night and then Class 5A Lamar School before playing four 6A teams, Parklane, 2020 6A state runner-up Jackson Academy, Jackson Prep and two-time defending 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy. Hartfield has never beaten MRA and JA and never played Prep in football. Hartfield is 0-4 against MRA and 0-2 against JA.