Main Street Preps: WH Heritage Reclaims Rotary Cup

By Joel Clinger for Main Street Preps

In the seven-year history of the series between the two White House, Tenn. schools, the White House Heritage Patriots had never won the matchup in consecutive years. That changed Friday night as they were able to leave Dewey H. Whitson Stadium with a 48-27 win and the Rotary Cup.

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“It was fun to watch our kids go out because this game means a lot to them,” said Heritage head coach Stetson Dickerson. “It means a lot to our faculty; (it) means a lot to our students; (it) means a lot to our community, and it’s fun to go out watch them play and have fun doing it. This is one of those games where they can really do that.”

Heritage was not having fun the entire night, as the first half was filled with big plays on both sides of the ball.

On White House’s first play from scrimmage, junior running back Ranen Blackburn took off down the left sideline for a 49-yard scamper to give the Blue Devils the early 7-0 lead.

Heritage responded with a long drive capped off with a Jackson Mapes 5-yard touchdown run. After a quick defensive stand, Timmy Freel took the ball into the end zone on a sweep from the 7-yard line to give the Patriots their first lead of the game at 14-7. That score was the first of five total touchdowns in the second quarter.

It looked like Heritage was going to get the ball back with a chance to build their lead as they got a stop on third-and-5, but there was a holding penalty that Dickerson accepted to push the Blue Devils back further.

On 3rd-and-15 from their own 15-yard line, Blackburn rolled to the right and launched a deep ball to Bryson Harper that hit him in stride for an 85-yard touchdown. The extra point was missed, so the Blue Devils still trailed by one.

The play surprised everyone; Blackburn is not known for his arm, but the defense came up to stop him, and he threw it over their heads. White House head coach Ryan Hamilton thinks teams will have to be on alert for more than just Blackburn’s legs.

“I think a lot of people are gonna watch Ranen do things thinking he’s a runner and everything, but you know, he can throw it a little bit, and they’re gonna have to defend more things than just him running,” Hamilton said.

Heritage quickly moved the ball down the field behind the arm of Will Wilson and legs of Jackson Mapes. Wilson found a wide-open Caleb Guisewite in the middle of the field for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

Again, White House answered with a big play. Running back Montrel Black took a handoff 83 yards on the first play of the drive and Blackburn finished the drive with a 5-yard run into the end zone.

After a short Heritage punt, Blackburn wasted no time taking off down the left side for a 39-yard touchdown run to give his team a 27-21 halftime lead. The Blue Devils needed only three plays for each second-quarter touchdown drive and relied heavily on chunk plays.

Unfortunately for White House, the Patriots did not give them the same opportunities in the second half.

Dickerson got his guys to settle down at halftime, and his message was simple.

“I think we were kind of getting lost in the moment in the first half,” Dickerson said. “With what they were doing, our margin for error was so small. We were making mistakes and they were taking [advantage]. They’ve got some good backs. They have some good players, and you know, we knew we were gonna have to stop the run to win the football game.

“We didn’t do it in the first half. We came out in the second half and really the adjustments we made was, ‘Hey, we’re not doing our jobs. We got to do our one-eleventh, and that little bit, we got to do it well. We got to do it over and over and over again.’ It’s not fancy, and it’s not flashy. It’s just working, and we came out and did a heck of a job.”

The Blue Devils would not score again. Their first two possessions ended in turnovers. First, Blackburn threw an interception to Taye Francis, and Montrel Black fumbled the ball on the next possession. Both led to Heritage touchdowns.

Mapes and Malakhai Illaramendi capped off short drives with touchdown runs. Both would add another score in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring.

Mapes played his fourth game of the season Friday night after dealing with many issues. He was in an automobile accident before the season, was quarantined due to contact tracing and had a leg injury. He ran for 157 yards and three touchdowns on the night.

“(Mapes is) a hard worker,” Dickerson said. “He runs hard. You know, in high school football, you got a back that runs hard like that, is big like that, and it gets old to tackle him… I’ve really enjoyed having him back. He’s an important part of our team.”

Mapes is a big, physical runner, and he bullied the Blue Devils all night long. He says he knew what he needed to do against the crosstown rivals.

“I knew coming into this game that I really needed to do that,” Mapes said. “I knew that they were gonna be very physical. It is a rivalry game, so we’re all friends at the end of the day, but during the game, it’s tough football.”

Heritage quarterback Will Wilson had one of his best games of the season, and he relied heavily on his legs. Wilson tallied 73 passing yards but ran for 108. Dickerson was happy to see the game plan open up for him and to see him have a good night.

“We had to tell Will that he had an opportunity to go out and run and be successful for us, and he answered the bell,” Dickerson said. “It was good to see him go out because, I mean, there had been some times this year where he probably hasn’t played to where he thinks he’s capable, and it was exciting to what to watch him go out and run and play really hard, and I’m excited for him, especially in the game like this.”

Hamilton’s team drops to 2-5 and 1-2 in the region, dropping them outside of the top four. The Blue Devils still have Creek Wood, Montgomery Central and Greenbrier on the schedule and will most likely need to win two of those games to make the playoffs.

He told his team the record does not encapsulate the season, and there is still hope for his team to make a run.

“We’re on the wrong side of the win-loss column right here, but it doesn’t define our season,” Hamilton said. “Right now, we still have hope. We still have more games to be played, and we can still extend our season into Week 11.”

Heritage has a bye week before hosting Westmoreland and Montgomery Central to close out the season. White House will travel to undefeated Creek Wood on Friday night.

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