Patriot Recap







 Patriots Blanked in Opener  

      Hartfield Academy’s defense was as smothering as the Mississippi humidity Friday night. And the Hawks’ stud running back Reed Jesiolowski proved as tough to tackle as his last name is to pronounce. 

      That combination proved too much for Heritage Academy as Hartfield cruised to a season-opening 29-0 victory before a large crowd at balmy C.L. Mitchell Field, spoiling the debut of Patriots’ first-year head coach Tobias Smith. 

      “That’s a really good football team we just played,” Smith said. “I thought we did some good things, we played well at times . . . we’ve just got to be more consistent with what we’re doing. We got a little tired at the end, but I like the way my guys fought. We fought hard, and we fought to the end.” 

     Hartfield, ranked No. 16 in the state according to MaxPreps and featuring a roster littered with Division I prospects, is expected to be one of the top contenders in MAIS Class 6A this season. Meanwhile, Heritage, although dominant in Class 5A the past seven seasons, returned just seven starters – one on offense – from last year’s 10-2 team and was breaking in a first-year starter at quarterback in Thompson Regimbal and an entirely new offensive line. 

     Prior to the game, one Heritage fan joked that maybe Hartfield’s bus would break down on the way to Columbus. Well, it actually did, just past Louisville. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on what side you were rooting for, another local bus company arrived and saved the day. Turns out, not only did the Hawks’ bus eventually make its way to the Golden Triangle, so did a No. 11 train – in the form of 6-foot-4, 217-pound Jesiolowski. 

     The senior running back, a Southern Miss commit, ran for 196 yards on 16 carries, including three touchdowns. Jesiolowski’s 9-yard scoring run late in the first quarter staked Hartfield to an early 7-0 lead. He scored again, this time from 15 yards out, with just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter to extend the Hawks’ lead to 23-0, then added the proverbial cherry on top with a 61-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter. 

     That was more than enough points as the talent-laden Hartfield defense pitched a shutout. Heritage managed only 68 yards of total net offense (-14 rushing, 82 passing) and five first downs. Two of those came via penalty and two came late with the game well out of reach. The other came courtesy of a 45-yard pass from Regimbal to fleet-footed wideout Cameron Kidd midway through the second quarter. 

     Try as they might, the Patriots simply couldn’t get anything going on offense, especially in the running game. They turned the ball over four times, three interceptions and one fumble. 

     “Their front seven is really good, and they’ve got guys on the back end who can cover,” Smith said. “That will be the best defense we face this season.” 

     Despite the struggles on offense and all the new faces, Heritage hung in with heavy favorite Hartfield for a half, trailing just 9-0 at halftime. The Hawks tacked on a safety, tackling Regimbal in his own end zone with just under nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, following Jesiolowski’s first touchdown run. The Patriots proved scrappy, especially defensively as Johnthan Banks’ unit thwarted Hartfield inside the Heritage 10-yard line and also forced a pair turnovers as Noah Madden and Will Free came up with interceptions. 

     Hartfield’s superior size and depth helped the Hawks seize control in the second half, however.  The Hawks scored the first of two third quarter touchdowns less than five minutes into the third quarter following a Heritage fumble and never looked back against the fatigued and under-manned Patriots. 

     “They were big,” Heritage wide receiver Charlie Fowler said. 

     Heritage will look to regroup and capture its first win of the season Friday when it hosts Winston Academy. It will mark the season-opener for the Louisville-based Patriots. 

     “The numbers game got to us in the second half,” Heritage tight end/defensive end Tre Rainey said. “We’ve got a lot of guys going both ways and they didn’t, that makes a big difference. Our defense got tired and we had some guys who started to cramp up. We hung with them in the first half, though – it was only 9-0 at halftime – so that was a positive. We showed we can hang with a team like that. We’ve got some work to do on offense, but I still think we’re going to have a very good season.” 

     Kidd, a senior and lone returning starter on offense, finished with seven catches for 71 yards on offense and six tackles on defense while helping limit Hartfield’s top receiver to just one catch. Fowler finished with a team-high eight tackles and deflected one pass. Meanwhile, Regimbal, who was under heavy pressure throughout the game, completed 11 of 18 passes for 82 yards. 

     Heritage’s most serious threat to score came at the end of the first half. Aided by two pass interference calls, the Patriots moved the ball down to the Hartfield 15-yard line. Regimbal, however, was picked off near the end zone on the final play of the half.