David W. Healy
With four minutes and 15 second remaining in the game, the football ricocheted off the Pillow Academy receiver and into the arms of St. Joseph Catholic School’s Mekhi Norris. Norris raced down the sideline and was finally tackled at the Pillow Academy five yard line.
The game wasn’t over then, but the celebration was building.
The Fighting Irish, the team with the longest active winning streak in the state of Mississippi (now at 19 games), were going to prove their skeptics wrong — emphatically — as they went on defeat visiting Pillow Academy 50-41.
“It was the luck of the Irish,” St. Joseph Coach John Baker said. “It bounced right into Mekhi’s arms.”
St. Joseph, propelled by their stalwarts Dillon Johnson and Trey Benson, proved Friday night that they could go head to head against a team from a higher classification and loaded with depth and take them down.
“This victory was all about heart and will,” said Johnson, who finished the game with 211 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries. “All I knew was that my teammates needed me to step up, and I was not going to let them down.”
The Irish, who are seeking their third-straight MAIS state championship, improved their record to 8-0 with the victory.
The game was a seesaw affair the entire way until St. Joseph scored three-straight touchdowns in the final six minutes. The last of these three touchdowns was a 67-yard score by Benson that put St. Joseph up 50-33. This score was set up by an interception by Elvis Scott.
Benson finished the game with 162 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
“This is such a wonderful feeling,” Benson said. “This victory means so much because we were underdogs and we were told by a lot of people that we were going to lose.”
Johnson, a Mississippi State commit, and Benson, an Oregon commit, both were taken off the field during the game because of cramps. But, a few minutes later, both of them would come back on the field and seemingly make another spectacular play.
“This win was all about heart and will,” Johnson said.