It was homecoming for Corinth but the game belonged to Madison Central Academy in a matchup of defending state champions Friday at Warrior Stadium II.
The Patriots spotted the Tribe an early 3-0 lead before exploding for a 51-17 win behind a deadly passing game and an opportunistic defense, along with some uncharacteristic Corinth mistakes.
The contest pitted the defending MHSAA 4A state champions against the defending MAIS 6A state champions and the private school boys got it done on the road.
It was a game the Warriors will want to put in the rearview mirror before beginning Division 1-4A play next Friday.
“We had a great test tonight,” said CHS head coach Todd Lowery following the defeat. “They (MRA) exploited some things that we definitely will need to work on to get better and ready for division play starting next week. Obviously we’re disappointed because we wanted to win this game. As a staff and as players we will work hard to correct the things we didn’t do well tonight.”
MRA senior quarterback Zach Beasley, reportedly a Vanderbilt commit, was as advertised completing 13 of 24 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns while adding another score on the ground. The Patriots out-gained the Warriors 427-259, the first time in recent memory CHS has been dominated statistically on their home field.
There were some bright spots for the Tribe, all attributed to the rushing game. Madison Ridgeland kept the CHS passing attack under control, allowing only two complete passes from sophomore quarterback Brawner Cregeen, while picking off two aerials.
Corinth senior running back Cayden Betts had twice as many carries as the next leading rusher Nazarius Jones. Betts grounded out a hard-earned 126 yards on 23 totes while Jones had 89 on 11 carries despite three rushes for negative yards.
Chris Rodgers had a nice 15-yard run in the second half while Christian Barber totaled 20 yards on four carries including an 18-yard touchdown run on a double reverse handoff around the right side 48 seconds before halftime.
“Their (Patriots) quarterback doesn’t over-throw or under-throw the ball and he got the best of us going over the top tonight,” said Lowery. “Their receivers are really good at route running and gaining separation and their offensive line was great. They are a very classy and professional team and coaching staff. (MRA Head) Coach (Herbert) Davis does a great job leading that program and they could very well end up winning a second straight state title later this year.”
The Warriors opened the scoring on a 34-yard Eli Burciaga field goal at the 8:02 mark in the first quarter following a three-and-out for the ‘Pats on the opening drive of the game. The drive included a pair of near-miss scoring throws.
MRA responded to Corinth’s field goal with a six-play, 70-yard drive which culminated with a 39-yard pass and catch from Beasley to wide receiver Davis Dalton, who caught two of the Patriots four passing TD’s. With the PAT it was 7-3 MRA with 6:01 remaining in the opening period.
On the ensuing kickoff Betts mishandled the kick, fumbling the ball back to the Patriots at the 10-yard line. The visitors took only two plays to cash in on the error as Rayf Vinson took it in from four yards out. The PAT failed leaving a 13-3 score.
MRA would add another touchdown before the opening period ended as Beasley hooked up with Dalton again, this time from 58 yards at the 2:34 mark.
The ‘Pats forced a Corinth punt on the next drive before marching 58 yards in eight plays as the first quarter turned into the second. Vinson scored his second TD on a five-yard run to stretch the lead to 27-3.
Another three-and-out led to another Warrior punt and a short time later MRA took a commanding 30-3 lead on a Landon McGee 27-yard field goal.
Corinth would slice into the Patriots lead before intermission on Barbers 18-yard scoring run. Burciaga added the PAT to create a 30-10 halftime advantage for MRA.
The Warriors had two opportunities to score as the second half began but couldn’t take advantage of a Patriot fumble on a blocked punt.
MRA made it 37-10 when Beasley ran it in from eight yards with 3:55 remaining in the third quarter. After intercepting a Cregeen pass aimed at Braxton Curlee, Beasley made the home team pay as he connected with Trey Zito for a 44-yard TD. The Patriots scored their final touchdown on a 50-yard scoring strike from Beasley to Street Tolar at the 9:34 mark of the fourth.
To their credit Corinth didn’t quit as Naz Jones scored on a 67-yard scoring blast with 3:15 remaining.
“We didn’t have much of a passing game tonight but give them (Patriots) credit for that,” Lowery said in his closing remarks. “Hats off to MRA. They played a great game. Now it’s time for division play as we will be working hard to correct some issues and get ready for Tishomingo County next Friday.
The Warriors, now 2-2, will battle the 2-2 Braves in Iuka Friday with a 7 p.m. kickoff.