In a battle of the Trojans, it was Tara High who proved to be the superior ones with a 17-6 win over Amite (Miss.) County on Friday night at Olympia Field.
Despite falling behind early, Tara (1-1) roared back in the second half with 17 unanswered points to secure its first win of the season.
“It was just a matter of execution,” Tara coach Cooter Mansur said.
“We ran the same plays that we ran last week but executed better, especially in the second half.”
The loss was a tough pill to swallow for Amite County (2-2) coach Robert Raines because it appeared the Mississippi school was on track to an out-of-state win after scoring on its first possession. The visiting Trojans, however, only passed midfield three times the rest of the game.
“We’ve been preaching that you have to learn how to finish drives,” Raines said. “We had opportunities to go up by three touchdowns early, but we couldn’t and you have to be able to cash in on that.”
The Tara offense relied heavily on running back Kaleb Kador. He answered in a big way as he rushed for 173 yards on 20 carries and scored the team’s only offensive touchdown with a 2-yard run in the third quarter.
“We’re always going to lean on Kaleb,” Mansur said.. “We know people are keying on him, but we have some big offensive lineman that do a really good job up front.”
The placekicking game proved to be an advantage for Tara as well with Papa Nger converting both of his point-after-touchdown tries as well as a 38-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to give THS a two-possession lead.
Despite being a senior, it was only Nger’s, a converted soccer player, second game playing football.
“He’s a new kid, and we talked him in to come play football,” Mansur said. “He did a really good job when we called on him.”
A couple of runs by tailbacks Keontae Hughes and Jarious Seeden quickly put Amite County in Tara territory on its first possession. But it was a play-action pass by quarterback D’Quarious Butler that fooled the Tara defense as receiver Edward Ross found himself open.
Butler found an open Ross, and Ross ran the rest of the way untouched for a 29-yard score to put Amite County up 6-0.
“It was classic Wing-T football by using the run to set up the pass,” Raines said. “They were a little liberal in their secondary coverage, and we took advantage.”
Seeden, one of only seven seniors, led Amite County with 100 rushing yards on 12 attempts.
Tara’s only real scoring chance in the first half came at the start of the second quarter when Kador opened the period by taking a handoff from quarterback Jaylen Williams and found a big hole up the middle for a 39-yard run. It appeared to be an easy touchdown but Ross did not give up on the play and chased Kador down to the 5-yard line.
His effort was not unfounded as the Amite County’s defense stifled Tara inside the red zone, forcing a turn over on downs and keeping the one-possession lead intact at the half.
“We talked to the kids and made a few corrections,” Mansur said of his halftime speech. “I told them we are still in this and let’s just go out and win this game.”
The halftime speech seemed to work.
After holding Amite County to a quick three and out, it appeared Tara finally got on the board with a 69-yard punt return from Kendrick Burton, but a block in the back penalty negated the play.
That did not faze Kador as he opened the drive with a 31-yard run and, eight plays later, capped off the drive with a 2-yard TD plunge.
On the next play from scrimmage, Tara took control for good when junior linebacker Kelvin Burton picked up a poor pitchout from Butler and took it back 8 yards for a touchdown to put THS up 14-6.
“That was a nice surprise,” Mansur said of the fumble. “We usually don’t make plays like that.”