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Inspired, ACCS pushes to first win

Wearing the number of injured teammate Tyler Buckles, Adams County Christian School quarterback Brandon Ross takes the ball down the field on a quarterback keeper in the second half of the Rebels’ 46-6 over Hillcrest Academy. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — With the No. 31 jersey on, Brandon Ross wasn’t about to let a tough start to the game keep him from finishing strong.

Especially since the true owner of No. 31, Tyler Buckles, was on the sideline, injuries and all, cheering him on.

After a 1-for-9 start at quarterback, Ross and the rest of his Adams County Christian School teammates were on the Hillcrest Christian 20-yard line in need of a big play.

And Ross delivered, connecting with Shane Pollan on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds left in the third quarter to give ACCS a 22-0 lead. A two-point run by Trey Fleming made it 24-0 and put the game away.

Not even a late touchdown run by Hillcrest Christian put a damper on the Rebels’ 24-6 win in their home opener, and Ross said the touchdown pass gave him a huge boost of confidence.

“It felt great,” Ross said. “I had been struggling all night.”

Ross also said Buckles, whose senior season ended last week after Buckles fractured his C4 and C5 vertebrae in his neck, was his inspiration for the game. Changing his jersey number to 31 — Buckles’ original number — was Ross’ way of paying homage to his fallen teammate.

“He’s my brother,” Buckles said. “It was an honor. I wanted him to wear it. I want to be out there as much as anyone else.”

Buckles also said he couldn’t have been more happy when Ross connected with Pollan late in the third quarter.

“Oh my gosh,” Buckles said. “I wish the best for that kid. He’s a great athlete, and he has a bunch in store for him in the future.”

The win marked ACCS head coach David King’s first with the Rebels, but King said he was just happy his players got to experience their first victory this season.

“They needed something good to happen to them,” King said. “I’ve been doing this as long as these boys have been alive. I think about all the mistakes we made, and that’s just the agony of being a coach, but I’m happy for these boys. They deserved to win, and I saw some improvement tonight.”

The Rebels tallied 213 yards on the ground, led by sophomore Trey Fleming, who accounted for 109 of those yards. Sophomore Lester Wells added 83 yards for ACCS.

King said a return to the basics this week in practice accounted for the strong rushing game.

“We were just out of whack there last week, and we just tried to keep it simple a little bit this week and just tried to base block and do some easier things, and I think it worked out for us,” King said.

Wells accounted for both of ACCS’s touchdowns in the first half. A 2-yard run with 5:21 left in the first put the Rebels up 6-0, and Cody Rhinehart scored on the two-point run, giving ACCS an early 8-0 lead.

Wells struck again with 5:58 left in the second quarter, going 41 yards for the Rebels’ second touchdown. Fleming scored on the two-point run, and ACCS led 16-0 at intermission.

Hillcrest scored it’s lone touchdown in the fourth quarter after a 48-yard reception by Travis Weed set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Deondric Ward with 43 seconds left in the game.

Ross finished the game going 2-for-12 in passing with 33 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Fleming was 0-for-2 in passing, and Wells’ one pass attempt fell incomplete.

King said he was happy for Ross when Ross threw his touchdown, especially since the passing game had struggled up to that point.

“I’ve just thrown so much at (Ross), and it’s not fair to him,” King said. “I just have all these ideas in this crazy head of mine, and I’ve expected too much of him. But he just keeps battling, and he gets better and better, and he’s going to end up being a good quarterback.”

After Ross hit Pollan for the touchdown, Ross said he spoke to Buckles on the sideline for some encouraging words.

“He just told me he loved me, and it was a good job,” Ross said.

ACCS (1-1) will travel to Riverdale next week.