After four straight losses, the Leake Academy Rebels used a suffocating defense to get back in the win column.

The Rebels allowed just four first downs and 140 yards of offense as they took a 33-0 win over visiting Park Place on Friday night at A.L. Thaggard Field. 

The Rebels improve to 2-4 on the season and will travel to Washington next week.

For veteran coach Brian Pickens, the win was a relief after four tough losses.

“When you lose four straight, a win is always good,” Pickens said. “Even though we had lost four straight, I was proud of the way the kids worked. Last week was a close game and a hard loss but we came out on Monday and worked hard and responded well this week. Park Place has some good players and played us hard. We had to come ready to play. I thought we found ways to move the football.”

The difference in the game was the Leake defense, which gave up just 140 yards and four first downs. The Crusaders had 90 yards rushing and 50 passing while the Leake defense had four turnovers with three interception and one fumble recovery. 

“I thought the defense was really good tonight,” Pickens said. “We dominated the game. They really didn’t have a lot of yards and a good many of those came late in the game. We feel like we’ve got people in the right position and have played pretty well the last two weeks.”

After forcing Park Place to punt to open the game, the Rebels got a short field and 41 yards in eight plays as Rhett Atkinson hit Colby Moore on a four-yard touchdown pass with 7:00 left in the first quarter. Cole Arthur’s PAT was good and Leake led 7-0.

After another Park Place punt, the Rebels added three more points as Arthur kicked a 28-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the first half for a 10-0 lead.

The Leake defense then got in on the act as Thomas Cheatham got two interceptions early in the second quarter, the second one he returned 41 yards for a touchdown with 10:18 left in the first half. Arthur’s PAT was good and Leake led 17-0, a score that stood until halftime.

The defenses dominated the third quarter but a muffed punt by Park Place was recovered by Moore for Leake. Two plays later, senior Wyatt Estep ran over two Park Place defenders on a 34-yard touchdown run with 3:33 left in third. The PAT failed and Leake led 23-0.

The Leake Academy defense got two more turnovers in the half as Moore forced a fumble that was recovered by Parker Thomas. The second was an interception by Riley Myers. 

That interception gave Leake the ball at the Park Place 36. But the drive stalled and Leake added three more points on a 37-yard field goal by Arthur with 5:07 left in the game to extend the lead to 26-0.

“I thought our special teams were good tonight,” Pickens said. “We kicked two field goals and one was 37 yards and that’s impressive. That’s an important weapon to have. I thought Cole did a good job punting and pinning them deep twice inside the 5. Our special teams are getting better every week.”

The last score came late in the game when Canon Parks got free on a 99-yard touchdown run with seven seconds left in the game. Arthur’s PAT provided the final margin.

Leake had 379 yards of total offense with 251 rushing and 128 passing. Parks led the rushing attack with 122 yards on 11 carries and also had two catches for 44 yards. Estep had 90 yards on 14 carries. Atkinson was 10-of-18 passing for 128 yards while Cheatham had five catches for 68 yards. 

“I thought we did a better job up front,” Pickens said. “We found way to move the football and complete some passes. I thought Wyatt did a good job of giving us a strong running back, He is a weapon on offense and what he does on defense is impressive.”

This week’s game

The Rebels will hit the road this week for the long road trip to Greenville to take on Washington. The Generals are 2-3 on the season. They have wins over Riverside (38-21) and Bayou (34-7). They have losses to Madison-Ridgeland (50-7), Pillow (41-7) and Starkville (28-7).

“They are a good football team,” Pickens said. “They look like they are a power running team. They have some big backs and pound it at you. It’s a long road trip and we’ll have to be prepared for that.”