Austin Day (30) carries the ball as he gets blocking help from Nicholas McClendon (53) in the Philadelphia Rookies’ win over Dixie for the state championship.
Austin Day (30) carries the ball as he gets blocking help from Nicholas McClendon (53) in the Philadelphia Rookies’ win over Dixie for the state championship.
The Philadelphia Youth Football Rookies captured the Mississippi Youth Football Championship in Hattiesburg Saturday afternoon on the University of Southern Mississippi campus, defeating Dixie 34-6 for the league's top prize.
Head Coach Lamont "Preacher" Crockett described the victory as a "Fourth of July" celebration for Philadelphia.
After the game, the 7 and 8-year-old players celebrated their victory at a pizza restaurant in Meridian with coaches and family members.
"We had a host of people who came and celebrated with the kids and ate pizza," Crockett said. "It was like a Fourth of July in Philadelphia. It was the first time we've ever had a team to even play in the championship."
Crockett, who has been coaching for eight years, dedicated the victory to the late Chris Johnson, who started the Philadelphia league at Westside Park.
He died in 2006 at age 34.
Johnson's son, Philadelphia linebacker C. J. Johnson, was named the most valuable player in the Mississippi/Alabama All-Star football game on Saturday.
C. J.'s mother, Linda, now serves as president for Philadelphia Football League.
"In my heart, we won this game for a guy who put his heart into it," Crockett said of his longtime friend. "That trophy goes to his house to be placed on his mantel."
He said the victory also signified the players and coaches' hard work.
"We all bonded and came together as a team," he said. "That's why we were so successful."
Crockett laughed when he recalled the players' eyes as they entered "The Rock" as the stadium is called on the USM campus.
They first noticed the turf grass, he said.
"I think it was quarterback Bailey Cook who said: 'We have finally hit the big time, now let's go out and do what we've got to do and play football,'" Crockett said.
Dixie jumped out early on their second possession of the game and connected with a big pass play. They scored on the second play with a touchdown pass but the conversion failed. It would be the last points the Philly defense would allow.
Despite being unproductive for most of the first half, Philadelphia started moving the ball on the next to last possession of the first half. After picking up a pair of first downs, running back Austin Day took the handoff at about midfield and went the distance for the touchdown. The conversion failed and both teams entered halftime tied at 6.
Philly would blow the game open in the third quarter starting on the first possession, as Day scored again on a 60-yard run. The conversion was successful and Philadelphia went up 14-6.  
The scoring would continue in their next two possessions of the third quarter. Quarterback Bailey Cook dashed down the sideline 29 yards for the touchdown. The conversion was good making the score 22-6. Running back Trey Crockett completed the scoring in the third when he ran through Dixie defenders for a 42-yard touchdown. The conversion failed and Philly led 28-6 at the end of the third quarter.
On their first possession of the fourth quarter, Philly again took the ball and marched down the field. Cook went 16 yards on a keeper down to the Dixie two- yard line. Two plays later, Crockett punched it in from the one for his second TD. That would the game's final points.
Philadelphia closed the door on any hopes of a comeback when after a long Dixie completion, Crockett stripped the receiver of the ball and returned it to midfield.
In its sixth year of existence, the win gives Philadelphia Youth Football its first state championship. It also completes another successful year for the organization that saw all of its teams finish the regular season undefeated.
The Rookies closed out their year with a 12-0 record while both the Midgets and the Pee-Wees finished 9-1 after advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The coaches for PYF are Crockett, Anthony Cunningham, Fredesz Moore, Tracy Wraggs, Ross Smith and Ron Clemons.
Tom Polk, Commissioner of Mississippi Youth Football since 1993, has spent the past two decades building the league that now features more than 200 teams and approximately 4,000 kids.
"If all we've put together is a football league, then I've wasted the last 20 years of my life," Polk has said. "We don't think of this as a football league. Football is a tool that we use to bring in kids. Our motto is, 'It is easier to build a boy than fix a man.' There are many life lessons that kids can learn from football, and we want them to learn those lessons as soon as possible."
MYF covers a region of approximately 308 square miles, from the Gulf Coast to Lexington in Holmes County and from Butler, Ala., to Hinds County.
- Brett Moran contributed to this article.