Tuesday, December 2, 2008

DeSoto rallies past defending champion Glenbrook 30-20 for Academy A title

PELAHATCHIE — The few. The proud. The Thunderbirds.

Ask DeSoto (Ark.) senior quarterback about his team's fourth quarter dominance Saturday, and he points to the teams strength and conditioning program under the direction of assistant coach ex-Marine Ben Pittman.

"The second half has been our half all year," said Coleman. "He trained us hard and it pays off in the second half. Everybody else is worn down and we're still going."

That was surely the case Saturday afternoon as DeSoto rallied for three fourth quarter touchdowns in a 30-20 come-from-behind victory over Glenbrook (La.) in the Mississippi Private School Association Academy A championship game at a muddy Moody Davis Field at East Rankin Academy in Pelahatchie.

It was the first MPSA title for the Thundebirds (13-1), ranked No. 4 in The Clarion-Ledger Academy A rankings. (DeSoto won the North A title in 1971 when there was no Academy A playoffs that year.)

"I just attribute it to the kids," said DeSoto coach Bill Beck, an Ethel High and Mississippi State grad. "It was just a total team effort. It's been that way all season. It's not any one guy you can pick out. Every game it's just somebody else who steps up. Our kids played real hard. I am real proud for them and our community."

DeSoto was making its first title game appearance since 1992. And early on, it appeared the Thunderbirds may have to make the 3-1/2 hour trip back to West Helena, (Ark.) empty-handed again.

Third-ranked Glenbrook, the defending Academy A champion, never trailed in the first half and took a 20-8 lead with six minutes, 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a 50-yard pass from Hunter Leppert to Jack Jiles.

But it was all DeSoto after that.

Coleman connected with Dylan Cruz on a 37-yard scoring play on the first play of the fourth quarter. Coleman's 7-yard run just two minutes later gave the Thunderbirds their first lead (23-20). The final score, a two-yard run by Cruz, capped off a six minute drive that started with 7:35 left and ended with just 50 seconds left.

DeSoto finished 13-1, with its lone loss coming to Tupelo Christian.

Glenbrook (12-3) was hoping to become the first Academy A team to repeat since Heidelberg Academy went back-to-back in 2002-03.

"(Quarterback) Hunter Lepert played with a torn ACL and (receiver Jake) Byrd broke his leg last week so that put a major dent in what we could do," said Glenbrook coach Jerry Almond. "We kinda kept it quiet so nobody really knew. But you have to give it to DeSoto. They came hard and they played hard. They are an awesome football team. I am proud of my games for playing hard under the circumstances. We just came up short."

Jiles rushed for 99 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown run for the Apaches. Leppert threw for 100 yards.

Coleman, meanwhile, completed 8 of 12 passes for 161 yards for the Thunderbirds, who outgained the Apaches 325-220.

"This is the greatest feeling in the world," said Coleman. "Everybody played together and played the best games of their lives today."

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