Photo by Chris Todd

By Robert Wilson

       CANTON – After winning its sixth consecutive game figuratively without breaking a sweat – scoring 40 or more points in each game – Tri-County Academy needs some competition.

       The MAIS Class 4A Rebels defeated defending MAIS Class 3A state champion Canton Academy 43-6 Friday night at Canton Academy’s Sam Vinson Field.

       Tri-County has also dominated Simpson Academy – last year’s MAIS Class 5A state runner-up – 47-6 in the season opener, and Winston Academy – one of the contenders for the MAIS Class 5A state championship – 55-14 last week.

       What about the other schools in Madison County? Could the Rebels – 33 players strong – hang with MHSAA Class 2A Velma Jackson, MAIS Class 6A Madison St. Joseph, MHSAA independent St. Andrew’s, MAIS Class 6A Madison-Ridgeland Academy, MHSAA Class 6A Ridgeland or even the biggest schools, MHSAA Class 7A Germantown or MHSAA Class 7A Madison Central?

       For the first time in school history, Tri-County will be playing a football team from the MHSAA next week. MHSAA Class 2A Taylorsville – one of the winningest small school football programs in Mississippi history – comes to visit Tri-County in Flora next week.

       Here’s a warning for Taylorsville: this Tri-County team has some players who play hard, don’t take a play off, execute well and know how to tackle. Canton Academy found that out Friday night.

       Tri-County produced 413 total yards and had 17 tackles for loss on defense and held Canton Academy star running back Chris Hunter to 25 rushing yards. The Rebel offensive front of senior left tackle Connor Hillman (6-foot-4, 245 pounds), senior left guard Reed Taylor (6-foot, 285), senior center Nathan Selph (6-1, 225), sophomore right guard Brian Bergeron (5-11, 230) and senior right tackle Will Barker (6-foot, 220) were tremendous Friday night, opening plenty of holes for the running backs and protecting junior quarterback Bryce Warriner.

Warriner completed 10 of 17 passes for 164 yards and four touchdowns and ran 11 times for 87 yards and one TD. Senior running back Rhett Gray ran 19 times for 99 yards and one TD.

Warriner completed TD passes to junior wide receiver Brayden Walsh (30 and 28 yards), senior wide receiver Jacob Clearman (25 yards) and senior wide receiver Tanner Blackwell (20 yards). Warriner scored on a 3-yard run. Gray scored on a 3-yard run and backup sophomore running back Hayden Hunt scored on a 2-yard run.

Warriner, who has yet to throw an interception this season, has completed 88 of 142 passes for 1,293 yards and 15 TDs this season. He set school records with 2,262 yards and 30 TDs last season.

“We are proud of how our guys dominated the game on both sides of the ball,” said Tri-County coach Philip Wasson, who has won three state titles, two at Washington School and one at Tri-County and been in five state championship games in his 18th season as a head coach. “The defense played lights out. Offensively, we let penalties slow us down but found a way to score. We must continue to get better each week.”

       The 6-foot, 190-pound Hunter – who is one of the top running backs in the MAIS and a second-team selection on the PriorityOne Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Team last season – had the only offensive highlight for Canton Academy. Hunter scored on a 37-yard run with 1:36 to play in the first quarter to cut the Tri-County lead to 12-6. Hunter – who came into the game with 786 yards in four games (an average of 196.5 yards per game) and 14 TDs and had 2,263 yards (16.9 yards per carry) and 34 total TDs last season as a junior – couldn’t get away from the swarming Tri-County defense, led by Gray and Walsh at linebacker, Clearman at defensive back and senior Hayden Walker at defensive end. Sophomore linebacker Bryce Brooks had a team-high six tackles and sophomore defensive back Peyton Partridge had five.

       Canton Academy has had a tremendous run since Gage Posey took over as head coach two years ago. The Panthers are 25-7 under Posey and reached the state title game both seasons, but Tri-County has beaten Canton Academy 40-0 two years ago and 48-28 last season. The Panthers had won 10 MAIS games in a row before Friday night. Canton Academy dropped to 3-3, the other two losses to defending state champions, four-time Georgia Class AAA state champion John Milledge Academy, owners of a 54-game winning streak, and MHSAA Class 5A Holmes County Central.

       “Tri-County has a great football team, especially at quarterback and up front,” Posey said. “We knew it would be a physical game and it was. Again, hats off to them and their staff. Coach Wasson does a great job over there. We have to learn to face adversity head one. Welcome it. We will learn from our mistakes and be better next week.”