By Robert Wilson

Thousands of high school football fans took notice when Hartfield Academy junior running back Reed Jesiolowski’s had a record-setting performance Friday night to lead the Hawks to a victory over three-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy.

But a phone call that Jesiolowski received Tuesday night was from one of the biggest football names in Mississippi history.

Archie Manning – yes, that Archie Manning from Drew High, Ole Miss and the New Orleans Saints – called Jesiolowski to congratulate him on his performance.

Manning knows Jesiolowski because Jesiolowski’s grandfather – Earl Stevens – was Manning’s high school coach at Drew.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jesiolowski ran for a school-record 292 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns to lead Hartfield to a 31-28 victory over MRA, ending MRA’s streak of 19 consecutive wins against MAIS competition and a 26-game winning streak in regular season conference games, dating back to 2017. MRA had won 50 of its last 51 games against MAIS teams before Friday.

For his outstanding performance, Jesiolowski has been named the Junction Deli Metro Jackson Football Player of the Week.

Jesiolowski scored on runs of 81, 37 and 1 yards. The 37-yarder came with 2 minutes, 9 seconds to play to give Hartfield a 28-28 tie. Junior kicker Connor Mullins kicked a 39-yard field goal on the game’s last play for the game-winner.

Jesiolowski broke the school record set last year by Xavier Davis, who gained 242 yards against Presbyterian Christian School. Davis is playing at Northwest Mississippi Community College this season. The MAIS single game rushing record is held by former Presbyterian Christian School running back Marquis Crosby, who gained 503 yards against Simpson Academy in 2020.

Jesiolowski has received many calls since his big game Friday. One of the biggest was from Southern Miss coach Will Hall, who offered Jesiolowski a scholarship, his first Division I offer. Hall played at Amory High and knows Jesiolowski’s mom Shannon and her family. Her brother Andy played quarterback at Amory and Delta State. Her father, Earl Stevens, coached at Amory in addition to Drew and played football at Mississippi State. Shannon played tennis at Mississippi University for Women. Shannon’s uncle is longtime Ingomar High basketball coach Norris Ashley, one of the winningest coaches in Mississippi history. All-SEC defensive back Todd Sandroni, who led the SEC interceptions two consecutive years in the late 1980s for Ole Miss, is Reed’s cousin.

Jesiolowski’s father, Dave, played professional hockey in Canada and in the United States for more than a decade.

Photo by Robert Smith

Reed Jesiolowski, who started the season at wide receiver and also returns punts and kickoffs, also caught three passes for 10 yards against MRA, giving him 302 all-purpose yards Friday. He now has 1,519 all-purpose yards (914 rushing, 427 receiving and 178 returns) and 20 TDs.

“Early in the year, we struggled in the run game and knew that we had to be able to get Reed the ball more often,” Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said. “He played running back most of his life and it was a very natural transition for him. Reed ran the ball extremely hard Friday night. He trusted the offensive line and was very patient. Reed leads with his work ethic. He has given this team a spark that has been much needed. Reed is such a team player and will play whatever position that gives us the best opportunity to win.”

No. 3 seed Hartfield, 8-2, plays host to No. 6 seed Presbyterian Christian School, 4-7, Friday in the first round of the MAIS Class 6A playoffs. PCS defeated Hartfield 14-7 in the third game of the season. It was the least number of points Hartfield scored this season.