MRA blows past Copiah Academy


GALLMAN – This time last year, Triston Hayles was playing football at Copiah Academy. Not only was he playing, he was one of the Colonels’ star players.

A junior, he was one year removed from graduating. His dad, Paul Hayles, was the head of school. There was little to no reason to think he wouldn’t finish his football career as a Colonel, playing on the very field MRA cruised past Copiah 45-7 Friday night.

However, life, as we all know, has a way of throwing us curveballs. Collectively, the Hayles family got a Clayton Kershaw-like deuce last December when Copiah let the elder Hayles go, leaving him looking for another job and leaving his youngest son searching for another school. Shortly thereafter, the younger Hayles enrolled at MRA, and several months later his dad landed the head of school job at Winston Academy.

Both father and son had big smiles on their faces following the Patriots’ blowout victory Friday night, even though the homecoming was, as expected, a little abnormal - albeit happy - for both. Triston had a 3-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against his former team, and his parents were here to witness it – although his dad was busy keeping up, via text, with how Winston Academy's football team was fairing in its game some two hours away in Louisville.

Triston, a senior defensive end/H-back, lives with his mother in the Madison area. Meanwhile, Paul resides near his new gig in Louisville.

The move has proven to be a win-win for both sides. Hayles has provided a much needed experienced presence along MRA’s defensive front, which suffered heavy graduation losses. Meanwhile, MRA has provided Hayles with a new home, one with a winning football program. The reigning MAIS Class 6A state champion Patriots, 2-0 this season, have won 26 of their last 29 games over the past two-plus seasons heading into next week’s showdown at rival Jackson Academy.

“It has been a little difficult, but we’re excited about it all,” Paul Hayles said. “Triston is in a great program, and a great place, and we know this is where the Lord wants him to be.”

Ironically, Davis coached Triston’s dad years ago at Co-Lin Community College. In addition, he coached his two older brothers, Braxton and Dalton, in the MAIS All-Star game. Braxton is currently on the football team at Delta State, while Dalton, who graduated from Copiah last year, is a student at Delta State.

“My family has a lot of history with Coach Davis,” Paul Hayles said. “So when it came time for Triston to make a decision . . . we were going to let him go anywhere . . . he said he wanted to go to MRA and play for Coach Davis.”

Triston Hayles and his new teammates celebrated a huge victory a week ago as MRA rallied to upset Trinity Christian (Texas) 27-26 in its season opener at Madison. With next week’s showdown at Jackson Academy looming, Friday’s game at Copiah had all the makings of a trap game for the Patriots. Not so much. MRA was dominant from the outset against Hayles’ former team, scoring touchdowns on its first six possessions to take a commanding 42-0 halftime lead.

MRA rolled up 336 yards of total offense in the first half alone, with 219 coming on the ground. Meanwhile, Copiah managed just 26 net yards and crossed midfield only once. Even then, Jude Aldridge recorded a sack for a 12-yard loss, pushing the Colonels back into their own territory one play later. 

Two of those younger players, sophomores J.J. Latham and Rivers Godwin, scored the first touchdowns of their respective high school careers. Latham, the younger brother of starting running back Tylor Latham, darted in from 13 yards out for one score, while Godwin reeled in an 11-yard scoring pass from Zach Beasley.

Senior Rayf Vinson had three rushing touchdowns, all in the first quarter. He had scoring runs of 6, 2 and 6 yards en route to his game-high 83 yards on eight carries. Vinson’s 32-yard run set up Godwin’s touchdown reception, while Tylor Latham’s 71-yard scamper set up Vinson’s first touchdown. A 65-yard pass from Beasley to Davis Dalton on the third play of the game set up Vinson’s first scoring run.

MRA was without the services of offensive lineman George Drake, who underwent surgery this week and is expected to miss up to six more weeks. Drake’s absence forced the Patriots to make a few adjustments up front.

Pax Hughes’ nifty 24-yard reception helped set the stage for Hayles’ 3-yard scoring run in the first quarter - his first in a MRA uniform. “That was big for me,” Hayles said. “I was hoping to get one tonight.”

His teammates and coaches were hoping Hayles would get one, too. To a man, they knew how important this game was to No. 19. So much so, Davis let him serve as team captain.

“He’s a great kid,” Davis said. “He’s very coachable . . . he does everything you ask of him and more.”

JA, 1-1, lost to Leake Academy 47-37 Friday night at Madden. The Raiders let a 30-7 lead slip away as the Rebels staged a stunning fourth quarter rally to pull off the upset.

MRA has won four of the last five in the series, including a 48-7 win last season.

“It’s JA, enough said,” Davis said. “Let’s go.”

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