Drew Horton makes his way to the end zone for one of his three touchdowns.
Drew Horton makes his way to the end zone for one of his three touchdowns.
MRA was intent on not allowing last week’s huge win against Jackson Prep to carry over into this week’s game against PCS – at least not in a negative way.

“We didn’t want a Prep hangover,” MRA quarterback Philip Short said. “We wanted to come out and establish our dominance early and leave no question.”

The Patriots did just that on a rain-soaked Friday night at Patriot Field, jumping out to an early lead and coasting to a 38-7 victory in their regular season home finale. Drew Horton had a pair of touchdown runs and a touchdown catch, all in the first half, as MRA scored on all six of its first half possessions en route to the blowout victory.

MRA improved to 9-2 overall, 4-0 in conference play with its fourth straight win, including the aforementioned 34-22 victory at Jackson Prep a week ago. The Patriots also wrapped up the top seed for the upcoming MSAIS Class 6A playoffs and the subsequent bye leading into next week’s regular season finale at Oak Forest.

PCS lost its fourth straight to drop to 5-5, 1-3.

“It was nice to go ahead and get the top seed taken care of,” Horton said. “We’re still looking at it like we’ve still got to go get that one next week (at Oak Forest), and finish the right way. Last year at this time we felt like we fizzled out some, so one of our main goals is trying to improve and get better each week.”

MRA once again got several big plays from its offense, a dominant performance from its defense, plus a few key plays on special teams to remain unblemished at home over the course of the past two seasons. It’s a formula that worked well Friday night, and one the Patriots hope to carry over into the playoffs in a couple of weeks.

The MRA defense forced a fumble on PCS’s first play, giving Philip Short and Co. the ball at the Bobcats’ 15-yard line. Five plays later, Stone Blanton powered his way into the end zone from five yards out for a 7-0 MRA lead less than five minutes into the game.

PCS botched a punt snap on its next possession, once again giving MRA the ball in ideal field position. The Patriots took over at the Bobcats’ 21-yard line, and two plays later A.J. Hasley scampered in from 16 yards out to make it 14-0 with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter.

Yet another PCS miscue, this time a blocked punt (Cade Carter), gave MRA the ball at the Bobcats’ 32-yard line. Once again, the Patriots capitalized in the form of a 7-yard touchdown pass from Short to Horton out of the backfield on the first play of the second quarter. The made it 21-0 and the game, for all intents and purposes, was over.

“The defense and special teams played a big role in this win tonight,” Short said. “We got the ball on the positive side of the 50-yard line a bunch of times, and that made it much easier for the offense. They’ve been doing that all year, so that’s nothing new.”

MRA wasn’t done. A 70-yard pass from Short to Justin Williams set up Horton’s second touchdown of the night, an 8-yard run with just under six minutes in the second quarter to extend the Patriots’ lead to 28-0. Horton’s 21-yard scoring run a few minutes later made it 35-0, and placekicker Clay Olson booted a 30-yard field goal in the waning seconds for a 38-0 halftime lead.

The second half was all about completing the formalities, complete with a continuous running clock and the MRA coaching staff making sure they worked in every single player who dressed out – freshmen included. About the only negative on this night, other than the damp conditions, was an ankle injury to leading rusher Hasley late in the second quarter.

“We did a lot of good things tonight, especially in the first half,” MRA head coach Herbert Davis said. “I thought we were a little sloppy with our tackling at times, a little sloppy with some penalties. But, hey, we did what we were supposed to do, we got up big at the half and we were able to play a lot of folks in the second half. Hopefully, we came out healthy . . . we’re hoping A.J. is going to be okay. Now we can start getting ready for a big game next week.”

MRA finished with 285 total yards – 110 rushing, 175 passing. The Patriots had 228 of those yards in the first half. Short, who earlier this season became the school career leading in career passing yardage and passing touchdowns, finished 9 of 15 for 166 yards and one touchdown. He did not play in the second half along with most of the starters on offense.

Horton, making his third straight start at running back, accounted for a career-high three touchdowns while splitting time in the backfield with a handful of players.

“I’m getting a lot more comfortable every week reading the holes and things like that,” Horton said. “The O-line blocked really well tonight . . . the holes were there.”

Williams, in his second game back after being sidelined with an injured toe, had four catches for 127 yards. His 11-yard grab help set up Blanton’s touchdown run, his 21-yard reception helped set up Horton’s touchdown reception, and his 70-yard catch and run came one play prior to Horton’s second score.

“I love having him back with us,” Short said. “He makes a big difference.”

The defense, meanwhile, played lights out again as it has for the majority of the season. Defensive coordinator Danny White’s crew limited the PCS offense to only 76 net yards and three first downs at halftime. The Bobcats did manage to score on their opening possession of the second half as their two best athletes – dynamic newcomers Ricco Dorsey and Marquise Crosby - connected on an adlib 31-yard touchdown pass to avoid the shutout. But it was way too little, and way too late to truly help the PCS cause.

MRA now has forced 19 turnovers this season, leading to 102 points. The special teams contributed in a major way, blocking a punt to set up a score, tackling the punter on a botched snap on fourth down to set up another and adding three additional points on Olson’s field goal.

MRA has held eight of its first 11 opponents to 12 points or fewer, six to seven points or less.

The Patriots, 21-3 over the past two seasons, will go for win No. 10 next week when it travels to Amite, La., to face Oak Forest. The Yellowjackets (7-3, 2-2) have won five straight since a 31-24 loss at Jackson Academy. MRA won 42-29 at Oak Forest a year ago, but the game was closer than the final score may indicate.

“(Oak Forest) has a big senior class, they’ve got a lot of speed, and they are very physical,” Davis said. “They played the heck out of us down there last year. We’re probably going to have to play them again here in the playoffs in a few weeks, at least that’s a possibility, so it’s going to be a big game for us for a lot of different reasons.”