The DeSoto Thunderbirds are 1-A North Conference champions again after defeating the Tunica Academy Blue Devils for the 11th consecutive season – this time by a score of 26-21.

 

The DeSoto Thunderbirds are 1-A North Conference champions again after defeating the Tunica Academy Blue Devils for the 11th consecutive season – this time by a score of 26-21.
The Thunderbirds got a sense of urgency and discovered just how badly the Blue Devils wanted this championship when Tunica’s Freeman Gray took the ball on the first play from scrimmage and raced 79 yards for a touchdown, just 14 seconds into the contest.  The remainder of the first half was a titanic defensive struggle.
You could say that the defending 1-A North champion T-Birds had a “devil” of a time with Tunica. Right off the bat, DeSoto knew they had tough task ahead of them.
The Thunderbirds’ offense struggled and sputtered throughout most of the first half but the defense rose to the occasion on several occasions. They got a stellar performance from defensive lineman Tripp Halbert. Halbert, coming off an injury, took up residence in Tunica’s backfield most of the game.
Looking back, DeSoto won the game on a crucial stand early in the second quarter by not allowing the Blue Devils to punch it in from the T-Bird 11.
DeSoto did not manage to put together an effective offensive drive until late in the second quarter. A 16-yard run by Dylan Cruz set up his game-tying touchdown with just 55 seconds left in the half. Cruz tacked on the extra point to knot the score, 7-7.
The defenses softened a little in the third quarter and the offenses opened up with the teams combing for 25 points during the 12-minute stretch. DeSoto scored 19 of those 25 points.
The T-Birds took little time showing the Blue Devils they had ever intention of reclaiming the conference championship. Just a little over a minute into the third quarter, Cruz broke loose for his second touchdown of the night. This one came on a 36-yard run from scrimmage. Cruz had accounted for all 14 of DeSoto’s extra points after he kicked his second extra point of the night, giving Desoto a 14-7 lead.
Tunica closed the gap to 14-13 on a 78-yard scoring strike with 5:37 to play in the third quarter.
Less than a minute later, DeSoto increased its lead to 20-13 on a 2-play, 40-yard drive that culminated with a 14-yard touchdown run by Dillon Wiggins.
The T-Birds scored again with just six seconds remaining in the quarter. This time, they put together a 4-play, 70-yard drive that all but sealed Tunica’s fate. Wiggins scored on a 3-yard run. The TD was set up by a 14-yard scamper by Wiggins and a pair of plus 20 yard carries - 23 and 25 yards respectively – for Cruz.
Tunica refused to give up but they faced a stubborn and stiff Thunderbird defense. Blake Harper’s interception killed another Blue Devil threat. Tunica had driven to DeSoto’s 11 before the pick-off occurred.
The Blue Devils managed to score on a 47-yard pass with 4:36 to play cutting DeSoto’s lead to 26-21.
The Devils’ on-side kick attempt failed and the T-birds managed to run out the clock.
The undefeated T-Birds (9-0) return home Friday night to battle Lee Marianna Academy in the regular season finale. The playoffs begin Oct. 29.