MRA’s Saahdiq Charles, an LSU commit, fights on the line against Jackson Prep’s Andrew Beard
MRA’s Saahdiq Charles, an LSU commit, fights on the line against Jackson Prep’s Andrew Beard
MADISON – Jerrion Ealy garners most of the headlines for top-ranked Jackson Prep.
   Don't sleep on Jacob Crawley, though.
   Crawley, the at-times overlooked "other" half of Prep's potent 1-2 punch, scampered for 187 yards and three touchdowns on Friday night to lead his team to a convincing 34-7 victory over No. 2 MRA before an overflow crowd at Patriot Field.

MRA hung with four-time reigning state champion Jackson Prep for a half, trailing only 14-7 at halftime. Crawley and Co. delivered the knockout blow in the second half, however. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior scored on a 5-yard run with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter to give his team a 20-7 lead. About 1 minute, 30 seconds later, he raced 53 yards for another touchdown for a 27-7 Prep lead.

Crawley’s other touchdown – a 54-yarder – came with just under three minutes remaining before halftime to break a 7-7 tie, and start a string of 27 unanswered points as Prep won going away.

“He’s really good,” MRA coach Herbert Davis said. “He’s the real deal.”

So, too, is Jackson Prep. The Patriots improved to 5-0 and extended their state-best winning streak to 26 games. They have now won 11 straight in the series.

MRA, whose only other previous loss came against Class 6A St. Martin in Week 3, dropped to 4-2. The Patriots’ last win against Prep came in the 2010 postseason.

Crawley, who was sidelined with a back injury this summer and slowed most recently by an injured neck sustained in Prep’s season-opening win over Oak Forest, entered Friday’s 1 vs. 2 matchup with only 22 carries for 157 yards and three touchdowns. He had 15 carries against MRA, surpassing his season total in rushing yards by 31. Crawley has now compiled 464 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the last three games against the Patriots.

He runs low to the ground, and he’s very shifty. He also has deceiving speed. Not Ealy speed, but certainly fast enough, as evidenced by his 1,432 rushing yards a year ago as a junior.

Crawley wasn’t the only Prep player turning in big plays. Ealy, considered the top player in Mississippi in the class of 2019, had a 17-yard touchdown

run in the first quarter to put his team ahead 7-0. He also hauled in a 55-yard reception midway through the third quarter that helped set up Crawley’s second touchdown. Prep’s final touchdown came on a 44-yard pass from Chance Lovertich to Jake Newsome.

In all, Prep had four pass plays of 23 yards or more - including the 44-yard touchdown pass – and four running plays of 17 yards or more – including Crawley’s 53 and 54-yard scoring runs.

“We’ve got to get more consistent in what we’re doing,” Davis said. “We looked good for a few plays, then boom we give up a long one. I saw a lot of good things tonight, but we can’t afford to give up big plays like we did tonight. It comes down to mental mistakes and not being physical enough.”

After going three and out to open the game, MRA put together an impressive 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive to pull even at 7-7. The Patriots, who welcomed the return of running back Andrew Berry, mixed the run and the pass effectively and eventually scored on a 4-yard run by Jake Reeves.

MRA, which came in averaging 32.8 points per game, didn’t manage to score the rest of the game, however, against a salty Jackson Prep defense that came in allowing an average of only 5.3 points over the last three games.

Jackson Prep finished with 405 yards of total offense – 227 rushing, 178 passing. Meanwhile, MRA totaled 260 net yards – 197 rushing, 63 passing. MRA had 162 combined yards on its first and last drives of the game, but only 98 on its other eight drives.

“In the first half we dropped some big balls,” Davis said. “I felt like we could’ve been tied at the half. In the second half, we didn’t execute the way we should have, and we didn’t run the ball as well. We got in way too many third and longs. . . they got to our quarterback. You can’t do that against this group. We pretty much got whipped up front in the second half is the way I saw it.”

Berry, who sat out the previous four games after sustaining a leg injury in MRA’s 34-2 season-opening win over Valwood (Ga.), finished with 65 yards on 12 carries.

“It was good having him back,” Davis said.

Reeves, who has emerged as MRA’s leading rusher in Berry’s absence, totaled only 36 yards on nine carries. His first quarter touchdown run was his team-leading eighth of the season.

“We hung in there pretty good in the first half obviously, but they hit us with big play after big play,” Reeves said. “That’s what they always do. They didn’t really drive the ball down the field on us. It was mostly the big plays that hurt us. Sometimes it comes down to one person not making a play. If we can just get it to where that one guy makes the play, and everybody else does what they are supposed to, we’ll be fine.”

In a nice gesture, both teams put the rivalry aside prior to the game to honor the memory of Walker Wilbanks and Cole Kirby. Wilbanks, a former football and baseball player at Jackson Prep, died two years ago following an early season game against Oxford. Kirby, who played baseball at MRA, died this summer after being involved in a traffic accident. There was a flyover before the game featuring three planes, one of which veered off in an opposite direction – known as the missing man formation.

There were blue “7” balloons (Kirby wore No. 7) flying above the bleachers on the visiting side. Prep also had white balloons with the No. 7 in blue on them that were released prior to kickoff. In addition, Prep also taped up a long banner on the bleachers which read: Patriots praying for MRA Patriots Fly High 7. Praying for Class of 2017.

After two straight weeks at home, MRA will hit the road once again next week. The Patriots travel to PCS, which features the leading rusher in the state in Isaiah Woullard. The 5-10, 205-pound senior has already rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. He posted a state-high 3,085 rushing yards and 30 total touchdowns as a junior, becoming the fourth player in Mississippi history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a season.

PCS, 5-0 and ranked No. 3 in The Clarion-Ledger Academy AAAA poll, defeated Silliman 45-7 Friday night. The Bobcats are off to their best start in school history.

“This is the best PCS team I’ve seen,” Davis said. “They are very good. We saw a couple of good running backs tonight . . . we’ll see another one next week. We will have to be ready to play.”