Nov. 23, 2019.
One of the greatest nights in Madison-Ridgeland Academy sports history.
Philip Short passed a Mississippi record 593 yards and five touchdowns to lead MRA to a 49-33 victory over Jackson Prep for the MAIS Class 6A state championship,ending Prep’s seven-year state title run.
MRA coach Herbert Davis and star linebacker Stone Blanton both say it was a great thrill, but it’s time to turn the page and look forward to the 2020 season.
“Last year’s team can’t win it this year,” said Davis, who enters his 24th season as a head coach, seventh at MRA, and has won four state championships. Davis was named the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Coach of the Year after leading MRA to a 12-2 record and the state title.
“You focus on this year’s team and what it takes to get better every day. It starts with building leadership and accountability with the players.”
“Our team last year worked so hard and put in so many hours for the final goal of winning the state championship and for all the hard work to pay off is one of the greatest feelings ever,” Blanton said. “Winning the state championship also came with some maturity, knowing that we are the team to beat now and that there is a target on our back. This team is ready to accept the challenge and compete day in and day out so we can reach the goal of winning another state championship.”
Short, who passed for 3,545 yards and 37 touchdowns, has taken his talents to defending national champion Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The top fivereceivers, including Joe Perkins (who is playing for Florida International), have graduated. But Blanton, a Mississippi State baseball commitment who has received more than a dozen Division I football offers from Power 5 Conference schools like Oregon, Michigan State, Virginia and four SEC schools, is back along with a good nucleus from the championship team. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Blanton is rated as one of the Top 25 junior inside linebackers in the country and had 66 tackles, 17.5 for losses, and four sacks despite missing six games last season due to an injury. Top returnees are senior running back-wide receiver-defensive back Rayf Vinson, offensive linemen George Drake (6-3, 330), J.P. Wilke (6-6, 340) and Harper Blake (6-3, 275), running backs Tyler Latham Jr. and A.J. Hasley, safeties Sam Polles and Hayes Puckett. The 6-foot, 190-pound Vinson, who has offers from Navy and Air Force, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Briarcrest Christian in the seventh game of the season. Latham and Hasley also went down with injuries last season. Polles had a team high four interceptions and Puckett three last season.
Short’s replacement at quarterback is Northwest Rankin transfer Zach Beasley, a 6-3, 210-pound senior. Beasley started at Northwest Rankin last year and completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns.
MRA is scheduled to open the season Aug. 21 against Trinity Christian School in Shreveport. Trinity Christian, in Dallas, won the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Division II championship the past two seasons and has a 40-2 record over the past three seasons. Trinity’s quarterback is Shedeur Sanders, son of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. Sanders, who had offers from Alabama, Georgia and Florida from the SEC, verbally committed to Florida Atlantic. Hethrew for 3,477 yards, 47 TDs and only four interceptions last season. Trinity is replacing Briarcrest Christian, which wasn’t able to come due to coronavirus restrictions in Tennessee.
Davis said they signed the contract Thursday. He said that Austin Smith, MRA’s quarterback coach last season, is now the offensive coordinator at Calvary Baptist in Shreveport and he was the connection to help make the game happen there.