Third time the charm, Rebels book trip to state title

Published 11:05 pm Friday, November 10, 2023

GALLMAN — Down 14-0 with just over four minutes remaining until halftime in the semifinals of the MAIS Class 5A State Playoffs, Adams County Christian School was in desperate need of a spark from someone, anyone to give the Rebels some much-needed momentum going into halftime.

That spark occurred with 12 seconds left as junior quarterback Coleman Carter threw a 34-yards touchdown pass to senior Damion Johnson to cut the lead in half. Then ACCS scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help the No. 10 seed Rebels rally to upset the No. 3 seed Copiah Academy Colonels 21-14 and advance to the state championship for the first time since winning the Class AAA state title back in 2018.

Even though the pass technically went 34 yards from the line of scrimmage to the end zone, the pass itself went even further than that.

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“I think it went 50 yards,” ACCS assistant coach Matthew Freeman said. “He (Carter) dropped back and the line gave him five or six seconds to throw the ball. He threw a bomb and Damion caught it in the back of the end zone. We didn’t want to go into halftime down 14-0.”

How that pass was not intercepted, however, was even more amazing. Two Copiah Academy defensive players were standing in front of Johnson, and they both saw the ball go over their heads and into his arms.

Carter scored on a 31-yard run just 26 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Caleb Daugherty’s extra point was no good, leaving the Rebels down 14-13. Then with 1:36 remaining, Adrian Walker ran in from three yards out and Carter ran in for the two-point conversion to give them a 21-14 — their first lead of the game.

For the most part, the Colonels dominated the first half. Junior wide receiver Jamarius Grayer scored on a 54-yard run late in the first quarter and he capped off a scoring drive after a muffed punt by ACCS with a three-yard TD run at the 4:08 mark of the second quarter to lead by two scores.

“The field conditions played a role in our passing game not being as effective as we would have liked. It played right into Copiah’s hands. They like to run the ball. We’re pretty much balanced,” Freeman said. “But the kids made plays when they had to.”

As for how Grayer was pretty much held in check after his second TD run of the game, Freeman said, “(assistant coach) Stanley Smith made a great adjustment in the second half and our kids executed it flawlessly. We were doing the same things defensively and Stanley made an adjustment that worked out for us.”

Despite the sloppy field conditions and having to, at times, try to run away against a speedy Colonels defense, Carter still completed 12 of 20 passes for 165 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. He and Walker led ACCS’s ground game. Carter had 13 carries for 114 yards while Walker had 14 carries for 63 yards.

Jordan Berry had five catches for 66 yards while Johnson had two receptions for 45 yards and Tristan Burns had three catches for 18 yards. Carter also had a game-preserving interception for the second week in a row and Burns had one fumble recovery.

As for how it feels to be playing for the state championship, Freeman said, “I can’t even put words into it. I’m excited. The kids are excited. The whole fan base is excited.”

ACCS (11-3) will take on No. 4 seed Simpson Academy next Thursday at 7 p.m. The Cougars upset the No. 1 seed Starkville Academy Volunteers 26-7 in last Friday night’s only Class 5A semifinal game.