Winston rolls to fourth straight
KING OF THE HILL Winston Academy quarterback Taylor McNeel gets ready to fire a pass downfield against Bowling Green. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Marty Stamper/The Meridian Star
CLINTON Prior to Thursday night, Winston Academy had never lost to Bowling Green (La.) School. And the Patriots weren't about to change things now that a state championship was on the line.
The Patriots overcame the Buccaneers and a sea of mud at Robinson-Hale Stadium on the Mississippi College campus for the MPSA Class AA state championship, taking a 29-12 victory.
Winston finished 10-4, while Bowling Green closed out at 10-3.
The championship was the fourth in a row for the Patriots and their sixth overall. Winston was also state runnerup in 1986 and 1991.
Winston, which had beaten Bowling Green 38-24 for the 1998 Class AA South State championship and 40-14 in a 1999 South State semifinal, scored on its first two possessions Thursday.
After a 31-yard return by freshman Phillip Harrison on the opening kickoff, the Patriots covered 46 yards in six plays, with Harrison getting the touchdown on a 29-yard pass from McNeel. The PAT was no good.
On their second possession, the Patriots went 56 yards in only five plays, with Caleb Metts scoring on a 2-yard run. McNeel was stopped short on the two-point try, leaving Winston up 12-0 with 5:14 remaining in the first quarter.
After being outgained 109-7 in total yards in the first quarter, the Buccaneers came to life early in the second period, following a 7-yard Winston punt to the Patriot 34.
Seven plays later, Bowling Green's James Jacobs scored on an 8-yard run. The PAT failed, leaving Winston up 12-6 with just more than 10 minutes left in the first half.
Bowling Green's Jim Magruder recovered a McNeel fumble at the Winston 40 three plays later. The Bucs drove to the Patriots' 5, where Evan Smith's fourth-and-3 pass was overthrown.
Winston wasted no time sticking the dagger in the Bucs, as McNeel found Harrison well behind the secondary on the very next play. Harrison easily outran the defenders for a 95-yard scoring play.
After bobbling the snap on the extra point, McNeel tossed to Will Tabor for a two-point conversion and a 20-6 WA lead with 4:37 to go before halftime.
Winston went 88 yards for a score on its first possession of the second half. The big play was a 55-yard reverse that saw Lenny Boatner fake Bowling Green's Matt Milton completely out at the 40 en route to the end zone. Jay McMillin's PAT failed, as the Pats led 26-6 with 5:45 to go in the third period.
The final Winston score came on a 26-yard field goal by McMillin with 11:52 to go.
The Bucs closed out their scoring on a 1-yard run by Smith with 10:30 remaining. The big gainer on the four-play drive was a 57-yard weave through the WA defenders by Josh Holmes on a short pass from Smith. It was about the only lapse the Winston defense had.
Winston had 353 total yards, 171 rushing and 182 by McNeel's passing. McNeel passed for more than 2,100 yards and ran for nearly 1,400 this season.
Against Bowling Green, McNeel had 86 yards on 15 carries, the last three of which saw him lose 9 yards by taking a knee.
Harrison had three catches for 140 yards and Jonathan Stevens had three receptions for 34 yards. Boatner added 79 yards rushing on six carries to go over the 1,000-yard mark for the year.
Bowling Green had 246 total yards.
Marty Stamper is a sports correspondent for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.