Shattered: Trinity ends season with overtime loss in title game to West Memphis, 56-48
Published 1:13 am Friday, November 17, 2017
JACKSON — Trinity Episcopal football players fell to the turf Thursday night at Jackson Academy like shattered pieces of glass.
Having just lost the MAIS Class A State Championship, many Saints shed hopeless tears while others lied motionless with their faces in the ground.
One by one, it was Graham Roberts who picked them up — doing his best to mend the glass whole again.
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“You guys are the ones that have picked me up when I doubted myself. When I thought it was me, you were all there,” the second-year coach told his team following the loss.
His voice cracking and fighting back tears himself, Roberts continued.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” he said. “I wouldn’t take a group of 100 guys over a group of y’all. I love each and every one of you.”
Trinity fell short in overtime, surrendering the title to West Memphis Christian School, 56-48.
With the first possession of a sudden death extra period, Parker Benson scored his fourth touchdown of the night from 3 yards out to give the Knights the victory. He also rushed in the ensuing 2-point conversion to seal the win.
Trinity’s overtime possession failed after four consecutive incomplete passes from junior quarterback Sterling Yarbrough.
“They played their hearts out the whole game, just like we did,” West Memphis coach Darrow Anderson said. “Honestly, it could have gone either way. We just happened to finish it out.”
The Saints led for the majority of regulation, coming out to score two touchdowns within the first four minutes of the game.
Trinity’s first play from scrimmage was no shock — a 45-yard pass to Jared Simpson from Yarbrough which landed the Saints easily within the red zone. It began scoring on a 1-yard run from Jakarius Caston.
After Timahj Peyton intercepted for the Saints, Simpson would score the second touchdown as Yarbrough went to the skies on a 73-yard completion, giving them a 12-0 lead.
West Memphis responded — cutting the lead to 12-7 — on a 11-yard pass to Hunter Hicks from Benson with 5:23 remaining in the first quarter.
Though Benson connected with Hicks once more on a 6-yard touchdown as part of West Memphis’ three unanswered scores in the third quarter, his ground attack seemed to keep the Knights alive.
The junior quarterback finished the game with 158 yards on 34 carries and four scores.
Perhaps most impressive was West Memphis’ more than 8-minute, 16-play scoring drive in the second quarter in which Benson carried the ball 11 times, including the 1-yard touchdown to cap off the drive.
Trinity, on the other hand, was led by Yarbrough’s three passing scores and one rushing touchdown. Caston ended with four touchdowns himself, catching one, rushing for two and adding another on a 43-yard interception return.
While Roberts said bringing together his team wouldn’t necessarily be easy after such heart break, he realized how just how far they have come.
“The beginning of the season before it even started, there was a time where they all wanted the ball and they were being selfish,” he said. “Toward the end and during the last game, they were saying how it didn’t matter who scored — as long as we score, it doesn’t matter.
“For them to have a mindset change like that, it just means a lot. That’s something that is going to stay with them for the rest of their lives — something I hope they carry into their families and their relationships.”
Trinity scored four of its touchdowns in the loss on fourth down, and Roberts said he believes it played a huge part in his team’s success.
“They wanted it bad. In moments we shouldn’t have made plays, they found a way,” he said. “That’s what keeps your game alive. It just what it is. It was about who wants it the most.”
On Trinity’s last play of the game — a fourth down that would have potentially sent the game into double overtime — Yarbrough’s pass was tipped and fell short of his intended receiver.
Unlucky No. 7
Trinity’s championship loss Thursday robbed the Saints of their seventh state title in school history, having last brought home the trophy in 2013.
As one of five seniors who ended their high school football careers Thursday, Trinity’s Anfernee Thomas celebrated his 18th birthday.
Other Saint seniors are Dee Fleming, Mark McGraw, Kris Genous and Cedric Daniels.
“It’s not as hard for me as it is for them,” Roberts. “There are five guys out here that might be done, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. I’m just so proud of them.”