By Robert Wilson

​The loud noise you heard from Northeast Jackson Friday night was Tri-County Academy’s football team knocking down the state championship door.

​After four runner-up finishes since winning a state title in 2012, Tri-County defeated Kirk Academy 44-22 for the MAIS Class 4A state championship.

​And the Rebels used a dynamic running game to do it.

​Senior running backs Trace Dearman and Zac Clark combined for 406 yards and six touchdowns to deliver Tri-County its fifth state championship in school history.

​Tri-County finished 13-1, with its only loss a 19-18 decision to Adams County Christian School. It was the Rebels’ 15th state championship appearance. Kirk, playing for its first state title since 2008, finished 8-5. Kirk’s last state championship was 1997.

​The 6-foot, 205-pound Dearman had 232 yards on 33 carries and five TDs, runs of 17, 11, 3, 3 and 1 yards. The 5-11, 165-pound Clark had 174 yards on 31 carries and one TD, a 13-yarder with 4 minutes, 37 seconds to play to clinch the victory.

​Tri-County’s offensive front of senior tight end Tanner Lee, sophomore left tackle Connor Hillman, senior left guard Aiden Barker, sophomore center Nathan Selph, senior right guard Zachary Parks and senior right tackle Christian Howell paved the way for Dearman and Clark. 

​Kirk had some offense of its own in Colbert Hathcock, who completed 18 of 37 passes for 213 yards and two TDs (one each to seniosr A.J. Wren and Richard Flautt) and also ran for a TD. Wren caught five passes for 129 yards and one TD.

​“This is a night the players and coaches will never forget,” said Tri-County coach Philip Wasson, who won state titles in 2011 and 2015 at Washington School. “When we lost to Wayne last year in the playoffs, I told the kids if we don’t win it next year, I will go work at Wal-Mart. And the kids reminded me of that today.”