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Photos by Chris Todd
Story by Robert Wilson

Two-time defending MAIS Class 6A state champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy continued to look like a third straight state championship is within its grasp as the Patriots rolled to their eighth straight victory with a 45-23 win over Hartfield Academy Friday night to wrap up an undefeated conference regular season.

MRA, 9-3, finished with a 5-0 record in Class 6A and is the No. 1 seed going into next week’s playoffs and receive a first-round bye. Hartfield, which played without starting quarterback Cruz Garner (shoulder injury), finished the regular season at 8-2 and 3-2 and tied with Jackson Academy and Jackson Prep for second place, but won the tiebreaker and is the No. 2 seed, also with a first-round bye.

Hartfield was hoping to start this week’s game like it finished last week’s game against Prep when the Hawks rallied in the last few minutes with 15 points for a 22-17 victory. But MRA got rolling early and Hartfield never was able to catch up.

MRA came in winning its last seven games by an average of 31.7 points per game, after losing three of its first four games to defending state champions, Greenville Christian (Mississippi), Oakland (Tennessee) and Pulaski Academy (Arkansas). The Patriots started early with junior J.J. Latham scoring on a 7-yard run the first 2 minutes and senior Tylon Latham adding a 2-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead. Hartfield senior Xavier Davis returned an interception for a 40-yard TD to cut the lead to 14-6 after one quarter.

MRA led 31-9 at halftime and 45-16 after three quarters. Sophomore quarterback John White – who ranked ninth in the nation in passing yards and touchdown passes, according to MaxPreps – completed 18 of 29 passes for 258 yards and one TD, a 14-yarder to senior wide receiver and Southern Miss commitment Davis Dalton in the third quarter. Dalton caught seven passes for 128 yards. Senior Street Toler caught six passes for 74 yards. Tylon Latham had two rushing TDs, J.J. Latham and White one TD each. Senior Landon McGee had a 29-yard field goal and six extra points.

MRA’s defense, led by Under Armour All-American senior linebacker Stone Blanton, limited Hartfield to 148 yards, 122 rushing and 26 passing. Davis not only scored on the interception return, he also returned a kickoff for an 84-yard TD. The only offensive TD was a 26-yard pass from sophomore Reed Jesiolowski, who replaced Garner, to junior wide receiver Blake Condon. Senior Weston Adcock added a 25-yard field goal and two extra points.
Said MRA coach Herbert Davis: “The offensive and defensive lines controlled the game.”

“It was a tough game tonight,” Hartfield coach Craig Bowman said. “We had an opportunity to score a touchdown before the half and we had a miscommunication. We had a poor first half on special teams and MRA capitalized on every mistake we made. We can’t make the kind of mistakes we did against a team like MRA. They are a really good football team. Coach Davis and his staff do a great job and we can miss on opportunities. We will look to grow from this as we turn our attention to the playoffs.”