Long-time Leake Academy coach Brian Pickens has seen his fair share of season openers and Friday night's was as good as it gets in his opinion.

The Rebels opened the season with a solid 21-7 road win over Class AAA Copiah on a hot, humid night in Gallman.

"Honestly, it was the perfect season opener," Pickens said. "It was perfect in the fact that we faced just about every situation you would want to face in an opener.

"Our kids faced some adversity and reacted well to that, our conditioning was tested, our defense was tested, and we saw some of our young kids grow up. Yes, there are things we've got to work on but it was a hard-fought win against a Class AAA school."

The Rebels faced some of that adversity early in the game as the Colonels took the opening kickoff and drove 79 yards in 11 plays to take and early 7-0 lead.

But the Rebels answered right back with a nine-play, 77-yard drive. Taylor Nazary, who ripped off a 32-yard gainer to open the drive, skated in from 4 yards out for the score. The PAT failed and the Colonels held a 7-6 lead.

"I thought that was important to answer that score," Pickens said. "Our kids didn't panic and took it right down the field. That's what you expect out of a group of seniors that has played a lot of football."

After swapping turnovers, the Colonels drove deep in Leake territory before turning the ball over on down midway through the second quarter. Leake then took the lead on a trio of big plays.

Reed Mayfield connected with John Forrest Sisson on a 29 yard pass play, followed by a 22-yard gainer by Nazary. Sophomore Joshua Jones capped off the five-play drive with a 24-yard touchdown run. Mayfield hit Drew McMillan on the two-point conversion and Leake led 14-7 going into the half.

"I thought (Joshua) Jones did a good job of running the football," Pickens said. "He's a big kid and really runs behind his shoulders. He's a load to bring down."

The Rebels got the ball to open the second half and took a 21-7 lead on a quick seven-play drive. Thomas Nazary set the Rebels' scoring drive up by returning to kick to the Copiah 31-yard line. Jones capped off the drive with his second score of the night on a 1-yard plunge.

Neither team was able to find the end zone again but Copiah drove deep in Leake territory twice only to turn the ball over on downs.

"We played a lot of people on defense," Pickens said. "We played like 18 or 19 kids and that really good. There have been years where kids couldn't come off the field."

The Rebels finished the night with 291 total yards with 260 yards coming on the ground. Copiah finished with the night with 266 yards, 128 on the ground and 138 in the air. Taylor Nazary finished the night with 129 yards on 16 carries while Jones had 77 yards on 11 carries.

The 1-0 Rebels return to action this week in their home opener against Class AAA Washington, who did not play last week.