By Robert Wilson
Photos by Chris McDill
One of the Hartfield Academy busses broke down on the way to Columbus Friday afternoon. That’s about the only thing that went wrong for the Hawks in their trip in the season opener against Heritage Academy.
Senior running back and Southern Miss commitment Reed Jesiolowski gained 196 yards on 16 carries and scored three touchdowns and the talented Hartfield defense – with three players with Division I offers – allowed only one first down and 41 total yards in a 29-0 victory over Heritage at CL Mitchell Field in Columbus.
The 6-foot-4, 217-pound Jesiolowski – a member of the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Preseason Elite 11 Team – scored on runs of 8, 20 and 61 for the Hawks, which scored 20 points in the second half after only leading 9-0 at halftime. He had 916 yards on 125 carries (7.3 yards per carry) and 13 TDs, 34 catches for 427 yards and 7 TDs and 3 kickoff returns for 178 yards (a 59.3-yard average) and 1 TD and as a junior last season.
“Reed ran the ball very well,” Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said. “I was especially pleased with his second half effort. He is so big and fast when he runs the ball hard. Reed is really difficult to stop.”
“Our offensive line (led by 6-4, 350-pound senior offensive tackle and Jackson State commit Antonio Ross) blocked really well and we were able to finish some blocks and runs in the second half,” Jesioloswki said. “We got a lot more comfortable as the game went on and played hard.”
Hartfield junior quarterback Cayman Tapper – a transfer from Northwest Rankin – completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Hayden McMinn early in the third quarter for a 16-0 lead for the Hawks’ other score.
Hartfield’s defense, led by defensive coordinator Jeff McFerran, might be one of the most talented in MAIS history. The Hawks didn’t allow a first down until midway through the second quarter and didn’t allow one in the second half. Senior linebacker and Southern Miss commit Chris Jones and 6-3, 250-pound junior defensive lineman Reggie Vaughn – a transfer from Madison St. Joseph who has 12 Division I offers, including six from the SEC – and 6-2, 265-pound junior lineman London Simmons led the Hawks on defense. Jones had an interception and a safety, Vaughn was dominant on the defensive front, and Simmons had three sacks and a fumble recovery. In addition to those talented players up front, Hartfield has sophomore defensive back Braylen Womack – whose already has an offer from two-time defending national champion Georgia – in the secondary.
“I am really proud of our team,” Bowman said. “Playing week zero is a difficult challenge from a preparation side, but the guys played hard. I am really proud of our defense. They tackled well and played really fast. (Heritage) Coach (Tobias) Smith has done a great job with his team.”
Heritage has its third coach in three seasons. Sean Harrison and then Heritage quarterback Mack Howard led the Patriots to a MAIS Class 5A state championship in 2021. Harrison was promoted to head of school and longtime successful coach Lance Pogue went from Jackson Academy to Heritage last season. Pogue led Heritage to a 10-2 record and the 5A semifinals. He resigned after the season. Heritage’s new coach is Tobias Smith, a Columbus High graduate who was an offensive lineman at Mississippi State. Smith was an assistant coach at Heritage in 2018 and 2019 and comes to Heritage after being offensive coordinator at West Lowndes High. Also, former MSU All-American cornerback and second round NFL draft pick Johnthan Banks is Heritage’s new defensive coordinator. Banks, who is tied for the MSU school record with 16 career interceptions, played five years in the NFL. He comes to Heritage after being an assistant at New Hope High.
Smith only has seven starters returning from last year’s team. In addition, last year’s starting quarterback Jack Ketchum, a standout baseball player, opted not to play football this season and leading rusher Jay Stevenson and offensive lineman Charles Woodard transferred to Starkville High. Despite those losses, Heritage showed some promise Friday in the opener, trailing only 9-0 at half, but Hartfield’s depth took over in the second half.
Heritage’s only first down was midway through the second quarter when junior quarterback Thompson Regimbal completed a long pass play to senior wide receiver Cameron Kidd. Heritage’s most serious threat to score was at the end of the first half, but Hartfield sophomore linebacker Coleman Williams intercepted at the 3 on the last play on the first half.