Photos by Chris Todd
Story by Robert Wilson
Two-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy played its second state champion in the past three weeks and suffered the same result – a multiple touchdown loss. And the Patriots play another state champion next week.
Defending Tennessee Class 6A public school state champion Oakland – ranked No. 46 in the nation – defeated MRA 31-13 Saturday afternoon in one of seven games on the ESPN GEICO High School Kickoff Series televised on ESPN2 at Madison.
Oakland, ranked No. 46 in the MaxPreps national preseason poll, improved to 2-0 and won its 17th straight game. Oakland, which finished 15-0 and ranked No. 16 in the USA Today National Top 25 final poll last season, has won a state title in two of the past three seasons. Oakland made a six-hour road trip from Murfreesboro to play MRA.
MRA dropped to 1-2. The Patriots had their 19-game winning streak broke by defending MAIS Class 3A state champion Greenville Christian in a 58-32 loss to open the season. Next up for MRA is two-time defending Arkansas Class 5A state champion Pulaski Academy. MRA will make the four-hour road trip this week to Little Rock and play Pulaski, who has won six state titles in the last seven years and is riding a 23-game winning streak. Pulaski – ranked No. 2 in Arkansas by MaxPreps – opened the season with a 69-22 victory Friday night and has averaged 53 points per game over the past two seasons.
Unlike the Greenville Christian game, Under Armour senior linebacker Stone Blanton played for MRA and played his first full game. He was held out of the Greenville Christian game and played only a half in last week’s 56-7 victory over Cathedral due to still recovering from shoulder surgery this spring. Blanton – a member of the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Elite Eleven Preseason Team and rated as the No. 7 player in Mississippi by 247 Sports – was double teamed for most of the game Saturday, but his presence on the field made a difference for the Patriots and kept Oakland from running up the score. Oakland scored more than 50 points 11 times in the past two seasons and only scored less than 30 points once last season.
Oakland senior running back Jordan James – who has committed to Georgia and is rated as the No. 3 player in Tennessee and the No. 16 running back in the country by 247 Sports – gained 169 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns. When James scored his second TD on a 3-yard run to compete a 95-yard, 19-play drive to give Oakland a 24-0 lead with 10 minutes, 21 seconds to play in the game. James’ TD gave him 164 yards and he was outgaining MRA’s entire team by 10 yards. That’s how tough Oakland, which returned eight starters on defense from its championship team, was to move the ball on. MRA finally scored when sophomore quarterback John White connected on a 25-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Street Toler with 4:38 to play. J.J. Latham’s interception set up the score. MRA scored again with 1:43 to play on a 10-yard pass from White to sophomore Matt Latham to cut the lead to 31-13.