Rebels claim MHSAA State 2-A Championship

By JAMES PHILLIPS,

The Scott Central Rebels completed a championship season for the ages this past Saturday night with a 21-7 victory over unbeaten and defending state champions Taylorsville at M.M. Roberts Stadium on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. Coming into the MHSAA Class 2A State Championship Game the Rebels knew they had to be focused and play their best game of the season. Under the leadership of first year head coach Devin Cooper that is exactly what the newly crowned 2A state champs did in dominating Taylorsville in every aspect of the game.

Hours before kickoff the Rebels were still on the Scott Central campus and enjoying their pre-game meal before loading the buses for the trip to Hattiesburg. Even with many supporters and fans gathering outside the cafeteria, and some spilling over into the cafeteria, it was apparent that this team was zoned in and focused on Taylorsville and bringing the state championship trophy back home with them. It was very business like during the pre-trip routine and Coach Cooper was with his team every step of the way to ensure that they remained focused on the task at hand.

“It was a long week and we were just ready for game time,” Cooper said. “We knew going in that  the team that was able to shut out all the noise and focus on the game and playing football would be the team that would win this thing.”

“This is a special team with great leaders,” he said. “This group of seniors were focused on not falling short this year and you could see that on the field when they went out and proved that each week.”

After the long week of preparation, media coverage and being showered with praise the Rebels finally took the field for the opening kickoff and all of the hoop-la surrounding this game went silent as it got underway. The Rebels had to overcome some early adversity when on the first play from scrimmage Taylorsville scored on a 58-yard TD pass to give the Tartars the 7-0 lead before the first minute of the game was over.

Even after the early scoring play the Rebels never waivered and remained focused on doing what they made the trip to Hattiesburg to accomplish. The Taylorsville scoring pass would be the only scoring in the first quarter, but Scott Central appeared to wake up and be ready to play ball when the second quarter of play got underway.

When the second quarter began the Rebels offense started moving the ball and senior Hydee Barlow, who most likely could any position on the field at 6-1 and 272 pounds should Coach Cooper decide to put him there, got the Rebels on the board with a scoring run. The Rebel touchdown knotted the score at 7-7, but the Rebels defense, as they so often have this season, wanted to score some points as well.

After the Barlow TD the Rebels defense took control and tightened the hold of the field against the Taylorsville offense. Midway through the second quarter senior LB Navonteque Strong put a hit on a Tartar ball carrier that sent a message everyone in stadium understood. On the very next play Taylorsville had a big miscue on special teams when a bad snap ended with the Tartar Punter kicking the ball through their own endzone to save the Rebels from recovering the ball in the endzone. This mistake led to Scott Central taking the lead, a lead they would never again relinquish on their way to winning the state championship.

After the safety it almost seemed that Taylorsville had an extra man on the field each play in the referees. For the remainder of the game there were numerous questionable calls, and no calls, all of which went the Tartars way, but nothing was going to stand in the Rebels way.

The Rebels took a 9-7 lead and all the momentum into the half and would pick right up where they left off in the third quarter. The Rebels would go on to add touchdown runs in each of the final two quarters by Barlow and QB Treyon Wash to seal the championship 21-7.

Coach Cooper said this team has met every challenge in front of it head on and learned from mistakes which was key to his team’s success come playoff time. The Rebels dominated throughout the playoffs led by a great defense and an offense that was potent from the beginning and only got better each and every week.

The Tartar offense, aside from the 58-yard scoring pass and a hail-mary in the final moments of the game, was not able to get anything going against the Rebels championship defense. The Rebels held the Tartars under 150 yards of total offense and only 5 first downs. While the Rebel defense was doing their job the SC ground-and-pound offense was wearing down the Tartars defense with a large dose of the big-man Barlow running it right at the defense.

“Our defense is strong and what people talk about, but on offense we are a ground and pound team that got better every week,” Cooper said. “We have some big strong kids and we can wear on you, and that’s exactly what we did Saturday.”

For his championship effort, senior Hydee Barlow was named the championship games Most Valuable Player. He accounted for 102 yards and two TDs on 15 carries while again wreaking havoc and being credited with a safety on the defensive side of the ball.

Barlow exemplified the heart of this 2018 Rebel team late in the fourth quarter when he refused to come out of the game even though it was clear he was gassed and running on fumes. He was not going to leave the field until the game was over. That is the way the entire Rebel team played all year long, they refused to ever quit and answered every challenge brought their way.

The senior leaders on the team vowed they would win a championship, and under Cooper’s guidance that is exactly what they did in winning the MHSAA Class 2A State Championship. This was a good team to start the year, by midseason they showed signs of being a great team, and after their dominate run to the 2A state title they have cemented their legacy as one of the greatest teams ever put on the field by Scott Central.