Tallulah Academy takes district title
By Alana Norris
Published 2:08 am Saturday, October 29, 2016
TALLULAH — Tallulah Academy’s impressive second quarter was better than Franklin Academy’s strong second half.
Ryan Hodge rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns, as Tallulah built a 24-point lead at halftime and then held off a comeback bid by Franklin to win 44-32 on Friday.
“We cut our motor off after we took the lead, and it’s hard to get restarted,” Tallulah coach Joe Coates said. “We scored the first play of the second half and thought the game was over.”
The Trojans (8-0, 5-0 District 4-E) won the district title and clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the MAIS eight-man playoffs. They’ll host Humphreys Academy (6-5) in the first round next week as they begin their pursuit of a second consecutive state championship. Franklin Academy (6-4) is the No. 6 seed in the eight-team bracket and will play at Kemper Academy (8-0).
Hodge was a big part of how the Trojans won. The senior running back scored on runs of 28, 53 and 31 yards to give him 102 career touchdowns.
“He’s had a great career,” Coates said. “He’s a great player, got a great work ethic. He’s a difference maker, but at the same time it’s a team game. Everybody’s got to do their part.”
Senior quarterback Luke Fortenberry completed three passes to sophomore Joshua Collins for 95 yards, including 28-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. Collins rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown. Fortenberry ran for 63 yards and a touchdown.
“We did a good job blocking and running the ball,” Coates said. “We got a couple long passes, but that’s our forte is to try to come off the ball and run with it.”
Tallulah was able to get a big stop with less than 5 minutes left in the first half that gave it a lot of momentum going into halftime. Franklin had two touchdown passes called back because of holding penalties and had to punt with 1:22 left in the half.
The Trojans seized control, when Collins scored on a 36-yard reverse for a 24-6 lead with with 42 seconds left in the half.
Franklin got the ball on its own 41-yard line, but quarterback Wesley Cirilo was sacked and stripped of the football by Trojan senior Kellum Anderson to give Tallulah the ball back. A 47 yard pass from Fortenberry to Collins set Fortenberry up for a 1-yard touchdown run as time expired. The two-point try was no good, bringing the halftime score to 30-6.
The Trojans took that momentum and scored on the first play of the third quarter on the 53-yard run by Hodge that made the score 38-6. Hodge made it 44-6 with a 31-yard TD run late in the third quarter.
Cirilo rushed for 289 yards and three touchdowns, including a 64-yarder in the fourth quarter that was part of 26 unanswered points by the Cougars. Cirilo’s long touchdown made it 44-32, but neither team scored again.