Tallulah Academy begins quest for second title
By Alana Norris
Published 8:52 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Heading into playoff season Tallulah Academy is thriving in the MAIS eight-man division, with an undefeated team looking to go to its third consecutive championship game and to bring home its second title.
The Trojans (8-0) open the playoffs Friday at home against Humphreys Academy (6-5). The District 4-E rivals met in September, with Tallulah taking a 50-20 victory, but running back Ryan Hodge said he and his teammates aren’t expecting another easy time.
“Anything can happen in a rivalry game,” said Hodge, who has rushed for 1,452 yards and 30 touchdowns on only 98 carries this season.
Tallulah averaged 55.6 points per game through its first five games, but only 30 per game in the last three. Coach Joe Coates said the last three games have been against better teams, which accounts for the drop off. Tallulah’s last three opponents all finished with winning records, while only three of the first five were above .500.
“In the last three games it’s been a pretty even match,” Coates said. “Our players weren’t necessarily better than the ones we were playing. We’ve been fortunate to win. Early in the year we were better than the teams we were playing and had it pretty easy.”
Senior tight end Brice Wood said the team has fought through adversity this season trying to maintain its undefeated status.
Tallulah has won 14 consecutive games since losing to Christian Collegiate midway through the 2015 season, and is 29-3 since it switched from 11-man to eight-man football before the 2014 season.
“It’s been rough at times,” Wood said. “We had a little bit of adversity at the end. I’m glad we overcame it.”
Hodge said throughout the season the Trojans have consistently played better against stronger teams, and last week he said the offense executed on a higher level in a 44-32 win over Franklin Academy that clinched the District 4-E championship.
The win over Franklin gave Tallulah the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs.
“We’ve played down to lower teams, and when we play bigger teams we play better,” he said.
Hodge hit a major milestone last week when he scored his 102nd career touchdown for the Trojans during his senior night game. Hodge rushed for 209 yards and three TDs against Franklin.
“He puts in a lot of work after practice,” Wood said. “I’m glad he broke that record. He deserved it.”
Hodge wasn’t the only player with a big game against Franklin. Sophomore Joshua Collins had 161 total yards and two touchdowns — one rushing and one receiving.
Collins had 197 total yards and scored four touchdowns earlier this season against Sharkey-Issaquena, but has been quiet outside of that game and the one against Franklin.
“We got a couple deep plays when we needed them. Josh Collins did a good job as a receiver,” Coates said.
Wood said the team is thrilled to get the top seed in the playoffs out of last week’s win, and Hodge agreed by saying it was the main goal.
“That was the whole key thing behind this game,” Hodge said after the win over Franklin. “This is the most important game of the year, and the next one is going to be more important.”
HUMPHREYS ACADEMY AT TALLULAH ACADEMY
MAIS Eight-Man Playoffs, Round One
Friday, 7 p.m.