MRA LB Willie Latham makes a tackle on JA RB Parker Ryan
MRA LB Willie Latham makes a tackle on JA RB Parker Ryan

With about five and a half minutes left before halftime, MRA quarterback Philip Short jogged over to the home sideline and shouted “Put the ball in my hands! Trust me!”

The senior signal-caller demonstrated once again Friday night why that’s a really good idea, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns and also adding a scoring run for good measure as MRA throttled rival Jackson Academy 48-7 at Patriot Field.

Short, the reigning league Offensive Player of the Year, completed 19 of 29 passes, accounted for five touchdowns, and turned in the play of the night on a humid evening filled with one big play after another. With MRA clinging to a 7-0 lead about three minutes deep into the second quarter and facing a 3rd-and-10, Short did his best Steve McNair circa Alcorn State impression. After taking the snap from center in the shotgun, he pirouetted to his left with two defenders in pursuit, side-stepped one of those, then as he was being chased from all angles ran up the field to his right and off-balance deftly tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Tyler Starnes. He got hit on the play just as he was releasing the ball, making the highlight-reel worthy play all the more impressive.

“Oh man, I don’t even know on that one,” Short said, with a chuckle. “I saw Tyler in the back of the end zone so I was just trying my best to get him the ball. We do scramble drill every day in practice, and it came to fruition in the game tonight on that play. My coaches always tell me to roll out, roll out if the play is not there. That’s what I did, and that’s what happened.”

Said Starnes: “When I saw him running around I just kept running across the field. When I saw him break out of it I just took off deep. I turned around and nobody was there. I just kept going vertical.”

The Patriots went vertical often against the out-manned Raiders, who had no answer for Short and Co. Short threw touchdown passes of 30, 25, 36 and 31 yards to go along with non-scoring completions of 36, 50 and 35 yards among others. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers, throwing touchdowns to three different ones operating behind an ever-improving offensive line.

“I about had a heart attack all week worrying about the O-line,” MRA head coach Herbert Davis said. “I went over there and told them I’m proud of them. They did a great job. They’ve come a long ways. We’ve still got to get better there, but I’m proud of those guys. They’ve had to endure some butt chewings this week in practice. (JA) tried to blitz us all night long, and they gave us good protection. They picked up those blitzes, leaned those big bodies on them, and did a great job.

“We made big plays,” Davis continued. “They tried to play us man . . . we did a good job of hitting the underneath stuff. But, when we got our chances to go deep we’re going to take them. And we did a great job executing that tonight. Our receivers made some incredible catches, too. We had guys making big plays. I can’t take any of the credit for that.”

MRA (4-0 overall, 1-0 conference) has won 16 of its last 17 games dating back to last season. The Patriots, wrapping up a three-game homestand before hitting the road for the next three weeks, haven’t lost a home game during that stretch.

JA dropped to 1-2, 0-1.

MRA has now taken five of the last six in the series, including back-to-back blowouts the past two seasons by a combined score of 89-13. The Patriots got the running clock they were looking for, although it took them a little longer to achieve that goal than it did in their first three games of the season in which they outscored their opponents 130-3 in the first half and 146-16 overall. In fact, Friday night marked the first time Short and several of the other starters have played in the second half this season.

Short exited with just under eight minutes remaining after flinging a 35-yard completion to Landon Fulcher. The Patriots scored five plays later on an 8-yard run by Rayf Vinson to cap the scoring and put the continuous running clock (mercy rule) in motion.

“This game felt great,” Short said. “It felt like a football game - four quarters of hard battling. I got hit a lot. I like to go home with some bumps and bruises, and be a little sore. This is my first time feeling that in a while.”