By Torsheta Jackson 
Photos by Hays Collins

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Hartfield Academy entered their home stadium Friday riding the high of an impressive win over previously undefeated Presbyterian Christian last week in Hattiesburg. It was the Hawks first district game and win since moving into the MAIS 6A division. Head coach Craig Bowman was slightly concerned that coming down from the huge accomplishment might be troubling for his team.

Hartfield calmed Bowman’s concerns with a 47-0 victory over Bayou Academy Friday night at Hartfield.

“I think the biggest concern was coming out flat,” Bowman said. “The week before was PCS and it was our 6A first district game and our players knew how important it was and after a big game like that where there are lots of emotions, you’re now guarding against the next game being a letdown. We didn’t have the greatest week of practice and I think it kind of showed in the first.”

Hartfield’s offense did get off to a bit of a sluggish start trading three and outs with Bayou for much of the first quarter. The defense, however, did not. With 3:25 on the clock, Gate Sorey intercepted Bayou quarterback Joseph Smith’s pass near the 38-yard line. The play seemed to electrify the offense. A few plays later senior running back Xavier Davis punched into the endzone from 8 yards out to give the Hawks their first score of the night. With less than a minute remaining in the first quarter, junior Blake Condon recovered a fumble setting up senior quarterback Cruz Garner for the score on a 20-yard quarterback keeper early in the second quarter. Kicker Weston Adcock made both extra points and Hartfield took a 14-0 lead. 

The Colts tried to get on the scoreboard but were plagued by problems. A penalty on the kickoff, a sack by Cooper Stroud, and a delay of game backed them into the Hawks Red Zone causing them to punt from the back on the end zone. The Colts forced a field goal attempt which sailed wide right and took over on downs. Smith and Larson Ingram mounted a push downfield as Bayou Academy maintained possession for most of the second quarter but turned the ball over on downs near the 24-yard line with 56 seconds left in the half. 

“I know the score was 14 to nothing, but we were just not playing our ball which is playing with passion. We didn’t tackle real well and we didn’t execute on offense. We had a good conversation at halftime,” Bowman said. “When you don’t come out the way that you want but you come out after halftime, make the adjustments, and play the second half, you’re glad that the boys picked it up. I think we came out in the second half and played better.”

Hartfield got the second half off to a running start, literally. Davis returned the kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. The Hawks attempted and failed the two-point conversion leaving the score 20-0. The Colts tried to get on the scoreboard, but the Hawks defense stifled the push. With 9:20 on the clock Garner connected with Jesiolowski on a 20-yard touchdown pass. The Hawks defense snuffed Bayou inside the 20 forcing a punt. Garner’s offense would take advantage of the short field and Davis would again punch into the endzone from the 1-yard line with 5:40 left in the third quarter. With 2:30 in the third, Garner connected with wide-receiver Blake Condon on a 50-yard bomb and the Hawks went up 41-0 after Adcock’s successful PAT. 

The shortened fourth quarter would see Hartfield score once more under the one-minute mark when Connor Elliott recovered a fumble in the end zone. The Hawks would allow time to expire without attempting the extra point. 

“Give Hartfield all the credit,” said Bayou Academy head coach Flip Godfrey. “The best team won. They are much stronger and bigger. The opportunities that we did have we didn’t do a very good job of getting the ball into the end zone and then we had turnovers. The kicking game killed us. Field position was never in our favor.”

The Hawks had an impressive offense led by Garner and Davis. They amassed 231 yards in Friday night’s win over Bayou. Garner completed 4 of 9 passes for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns. The versatile quarterback also picked up 53 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown. He has passed for 623 yards and 9 touchdowns this season. Davis is also posting big numbers. Davis rushed for 64 yards against the Colts. He is averaging 124.6 yards per game.  

“They are extremely impactful,” Bowman said. “I think they are two of the best in our league. Some of the schools in our league have fantastic skill players but I will put those two right up there with them. We also have a tremendous offensive line. When you have those two combinations, we should have a lot of success.”

Hartfield can credit its second shut-out of the season to the same staunch and stingy defense that kickstarted the team Friday night. The team had 6 sacks, caused 2 fumbles, and nabbed an interception.

“They understand our scheme and when they are able to understand what we are doing then they are able to just trust their training,” said Bowman. “We have a lot of good speed on defense and our defensive staff does a good job of putting personnel together in the right way. And the other thing is they love playing defense. They are excited to be on the field and flying around. They want to be known as a good defense.”

Bowman is now looking ahead to this week’s upcoming game.

“Lamar became a big rival, so we know that it’s going to be a good game,” Bowman said. “They have one of the best coaches in the state and so he is going to be well prepared, and we have to go down there. Every one of these games is really important to our team and our community.”