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By Chris Whitaker, The Clarion-Ledger
All Mason Todd could think about was redemption from his team’s last two losses.
The Tallulah Academy senior quarterback had a near perfect game as he led the Trojans to a 34-25 win over Christian Collegiate on Thursday in the MAIS 8-man championship at Millsaps College, the school’s first 8-man title and first championship since 1992.
Todd was 12 of 13 passing for 244 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 131 yards and two more scores as Tallulah (12-1) avenged an earlier defeat to CCA as well as last year’s embarrassing loss in the championship to Sharkey-Issaquena Academy.
“We worked hard for this year all year,” Todd said. “In Week 5, Christian Collegiate beat us, so we’ve been wanting them back again and got them.”
CCA (12-1) beat Tallulah 46-38 on Sept. 25 led by quarter Devan Roberts, who had more than 450 yards of offense in the win. The senior battled through a shoulder injury, but was held to 235 total yards.
“We just got a lot better on defense,” said Tallulah coach Bo Barton, who took over the program June 1 and coached 8-man for the first time after 22 years in Louisiana public schools. “Earlier in the year we were young. Our kids grew up a lot. There’s not one senior on that defense, so they’ll be back.”
Barton said the Trojans didn’t make enough plays in the earlier meeting this season, but they had several this time. Todd had a 53-yard pass that set up a score in the third quarter, a 25-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Antley early in the fourth quarter and the sealing score on a 63-yard run that came following an audible at the line that gave the Trojans a 34-19 lead with 3:23 left in the game.
“Coach called 25 — fake it this way (right) and counter it back to the other side and it opened up for the first time. It didn’t open up any other time,” Todd said.
Roberts led CCA back, completing 4 of 6 passes for 29 yards with T.J. Clolinger capping the drive with a 1-yard touchdown, his second score of the game. But Tallulah’s Luke Fortenberry broke up the two-point conversion to leave the deficit at nine points.
Clolinger was held to 36 yards rushing, but he had six catches for 70 yards while CCA had 273 total in the game.
“They just crowded the box a little more and put a few more guys up there and didn’t let us get to the edge as much as last time,” CCA coach Joe Roberts said. “We moved the ball with T.J., but he separated his shoulder a little bit, and we couldn’t hammer him in there the way we wanted to and the way we did last week.
“They brought a great game plan against us defensively and worked hard. Both of these offenses have been prolific all year long, and I think we held each other probably to the lowest that each other has been held to all year.”
Ryan Hodge had 123 yards rushing for Tallulah, and Cone made four catches for 150 yards.
The Trojans forced two three-and-outs to start the game and capitalized with a pair of Todd touchdown passes to lead after the first quarter. The Bulldogs made it 12-7 after they used four plays to go 83 yards in the final minute of the half.
The Trojans were the highest-scoring team in 8-man football, averaging 52.3 points entering the contest. CCA had the top scoring defense, allowing 15.5 points a game.
It was only the second 8-man championship game to be decided by single-digits since champions started being crowned in 2009.