It was another tough night on the football field for the Leake Academy Rebels last week.

The Rebels built a 21-0 lead in the first half only to see it dwindle away in the second half as homestanding Hartfield took a 42-28 win.

The Rebels fall to 1-3 on the season and will host Starkville Academy this week in a non-district contest.

It was another tough loss for the Rebels, who were able to control the line of scrimmage on offense and led the game in most statistical categories. The Rebels had 24 first downs to 13 for Hartfield and held the ball for almost 34 minutes to just 14 for the Hawks. The Rebels also had 296 yards of total offense while Hartfield had 293 yards.

While Leake Academy coach Brian Pickens was disappointed with the loss but gave credit to Hartfield as well.           

“Hartfield was really good,” Pickens said. “They have done a really good job of building that program. They were very talented and had a couple of kids that we knew had the potential of scoring from anywhere on the field. No. 1 picked up the punt and returned it for a touchdown and that was a back breaker.”

The Rebels got the ball to begin the first half. They put together a 14-play, 65-yard drive that Wyatt Estep capped off with a one-yard run with 5:53 left. Cole Arthur booted the PAT and Leake led 7-0.

The Rebels got the ball right back as Hartfield fumbled on their first play. Leake Academy’s Colby Moore recovered.

The Rebels then went 37 yards in five plays for a score. Rhett Atkinson hit Riley Myers on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 3:24 left. Arthur’s PAT was good and Leake led 14-0.

After forcing Hartfield to punt, the Rebels got right back to it on offense. The Rebels drove 50 yards in 12 plays with Estep scoring on a four-yard run with 7:36 left in the first half. Arthur’s PAT gave Leake a 21-0 lead.

“We felt like one of our strengths was to line up and run the ball at people,” Pickens said. “I was encouraged by the way we ran the ball. We had almost 300 yards rushing. I thought we did a good job of executing. Anytime you can drive 12 or 14 plays in high school, your kids are executing. That’s not easy to see in a loss but I thought we did a good job of executing on offense.”

Hartfield got back in the game before the end of the as they scored on a 40-yard run with 1:32 left in the half to cut the lead to 21-7.

The Hawks got the ball to start the second half and used the big play to cut into Leake’s lead as they scored on a 78-yard pass to Ole Miss commit Brandon Buckhaulter to cut the lead to 21-14. 

After a Leakemy interception, Hartfield tied the game up with a 45-yard run by Cruz Garner with 6:18 left in the game to tie the game at 21-21.

The Rebels were forced to punt and Buckhaulter fielded the punt, made three players miss and raced 80 yards for a touchdown with 4:10 left in the third as the Hawks took a 28-21 lead.

The Rebels then responded with another long drive. They went 65 yards in 10 plays as Garrett Martin scored on an 11-yard run with 11:25 left in the game. The PAT was good to the game at 28-28.

Hartfield answered right back with a six-play, 70-yard drive as Cruz scored on a 12-yard run with 8:11 left in the game to take a 35-28 lead. The Hawks added another late score on a short field for the final margin.

The Rebels had 279 yards of total offense with 263 yards rushing and 33 passing. Atkinson had 65 yards rushing on eight carries while Estep had 90 yards on 19 carries. Cannon Parks had 47 yards on 13 carries while Gunner Pickens had 36 yards rushing on 11 carries.

The Rebels will try to snap their three-game losing streak as they host former district foe Starkville Academy this week.

The Volunteers are 3-1 on the season as and have won three in a row since losing 34-13 to Lamar. The Volunteers beat French Camp 23-0, Noxapater 22-7 and Magnolia Heights 33-26.

“It’s a big game for us,” Pickens said. “We have had three tough weeks and all the game are big at this point. It’s big for morale, power points, momentum, everything. It’s not a district game but with power points, they are all district games. They have a physical football team and have athletes that can run. They are fundamentally sound on defense and they are one of the most impressive coached defenses that I have seen in high school football.”