MRA’s Joe Perkins (4) runs past Tornado defensive back Don’tae Harris (25) in Friday night’s 21-14 loss at Philadelphia High.
MRA’s Joe Perkins (4) runs past Tornado defensive back Don’tae Harris (25) in Friday night’s 21-14 loss at Philadelphia High.
PHILADELPHIA — Willie Latham made one bone-jarring tackle after another. Joe Perkins looked and played the part of the Division I talent he is. Russ Sceroler, to put it nicely, out-performed the other team's best player. Rayf Vinson continued being Mr. Versatility. And Philip Short carried on valiantly despite a bum left ankle.

The offense moved the ball well at times, and the defense played about as well as can be expected against a speed-laden offense.

All in all, MRA played hard enough and competed, individually and collectively, to win Friday night's highly-anticipated MAIS-MHSAA clash against Philadelphia High here at historic Harpole Stadium. Too many missed opportunities in the red zone and one major busted coverage proved costly for the previously unbeaten Patriots, however, as the homestanding Tornadoes prevailed 21-14.

Quarterback Asher Morgan, a JA transfer, had a big night for Philly, rushing for one touchdown and passing for another as the Tornadoes outscored the Patriots 14-7 in the frantic fourth quarter proceeded by a 7-7 deadlock through the first three quarters. The first of those fourth-quarter touchdowns came on a 73-yard pass from Morgan to a wide open Kadarius Calloway to give Philly a very brief 14-7 advantage, the other came courtesy of a 2-yard run by shifty scatback Raedarius Triplett with just over six minutes left to put the Tornadoes ahead to stay.

"We played pretty good, just not good enough," said Short, who established a new school record for touchdown passes in a career (50) with a pair of scoring tosses. "I just thought we waited a little too late to turn it on. We were sluggish in the first half, we started off slow. We missed a few opportunities that we should've cashed in on. The defense played lights out. When the defense plays like that, the offense has got to do its part. And we weren't able to do that. That's on me, that's on the offense. We've got to get back in the film room on Monday and get better."

Philadelphia, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A, improved to 4-1. The Tornadoes have beaten three MHSAA Class 4A opponents, including Noxubee County, to go along with their latest win over the top-ranked MAIS team.

MRA, which had cruised to five straight wins outscoring its opponents 241-29, suffered its first loss to drop to 5-1 heading into next week's game at Briarcrest Christian. The Saints, 5-0 and fresh off a 57-0 pasting of St. Benedict, will be looking to avenge last year's 42-35 upset loss to MRA at Madison, a game in which the Patriots rallied from behind with 21 unanswered points in the final seven minutes.

Scoring points hadn't been much of a problem for MRA coming in. The Patriots were averaging 48.2 points per game, with most of those coming in the first half. The defense had been super salty, as well, allowing only 5.8 points per game. The first team defense, in fact, had allowed only one touchdown through the first five games.

Philly, as expected, was a considerable step up in competition and proved formidable. The 7-0 halftime deficit following Morgan's 11-yard touchdown run in with 4:17 left in the second quarter marked the first time MRA had actually trailed in a game this season. 

Up next for the Patriots is a trip to Eads, Tenn. for a showdown with Briarcrest Christian (5-0).