This was Cam’s performance for the ages

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Clinton quarterback Cam Akers (3) runs for a touchdown against Pearl defender Johnquarise Patterson in the MHSAA Class 6A championship football game in Starkville.

James Pugh ,The Laurel Chronicle, via AP)

Clinton quarterback Cam Akers (3) runs for a touchdown against Pearl defender Johnquarise Patterson in the MHSAA Class 6A championship football game in Starkville.

 

STARKVILLE — Here in Mississippi, a state of football legends, we’ve had Bruiser and Jake and Archie. We’ve had Walter, Brett and Jerry, not to mention Marcus and Steve.

You don’t have to hear their last names. You already know who we’re talking about. You hear the first names, you know. And now…

We have Cam.

Cam Akers Friday night closed out his Clinton Arrows career with a performance for the ages in a 49-35 Clinton victory. Playing against a tenacious and normally stingy Pearl defense, Akers was a human highlight show, showing off speed, power, dazzling moves and a simply terrific arm.

“We wanted to make history tonight,” Akers said afterward.

They did, he especially. Clinton won its first state championship in school history behind a performance people will talk about for decades.

Rick Cleveland

Melanie Thortis

Rick Cleveland

Cam ran for 96 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 178 yards and another score. That was in the first half. He was just getting going, ready to shift into high gear.

By game’s end, Cam had run for 217 yards, passed for 228 and accounted for seven touchdowns, five running and two passing. That’s right. He accounted for 42 points against a Pearl defense that had allowed 22 in three previous playoff games combined..

Oh yeah, he also played defense. When a fourth down Pearl pass hit the ground with 24 seconds left, sealing the victory, the pass defender was none other than Cam Akers.

Don’t know what was more impressive, his speed, his power or his arm.

Clinton quarterback Cam Akers (3) passes against Pearl in the MHSAA Class 6A football championship game in Starkville.

Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Clinton quarterback Cam Akers (3) passes against Pearl in the MHSAA Class 6A football championship game in Starkville.

On the last play of the first half, running to his right, he flicked his wrist and the resulting pass, a perfectly thrown spiral, hit Jordan Patton in the hands for a 46-yard touchdown that made it 28-14 Clinton.

On a 65-yard third quarter touchdown run, Akers streaked down the right sideline trailed by three Pirates defensive backs who could not gain ground. A Pearl observer said the three pursuers were three-quarters of Pearl’s state championship 4 X 100-meter state championship relay team.

“We couldn’t get him down,” said Pearl coach John Perry. “He’s probably the best player in Mississippi history. He’s the best I’ve seen.”

Said Pearl defensive coordinator Chase Carmody, grandson of Hall of Fame football coach Jim “Big Nasty” Carmody, “We couldn’t catch him and when we did, he ran through us.”

At times, Pearl defenders bounced off the sturdy Akers like so many bowling pins.

“He was the difference in the game,” Perry said. “He’s the difference in every game he plays.”

Akers can run around you, or he can run over you. Often, he does both on the same play.

“When Cam makes up his mind, you just ain’t gonna stop him,” said Clinton coach Jud Boswell. “He had made up his mind tonight. Nobody was stopping him tonight.”

Akers, a five-star recruit only because they don’t give six or seven, gave credit to his offensive linemen and to his receivers.

“Big thanks to them,” said Akers, clutching the state championship trophy. “My teammates made this possible tonight.”

Anything seems possible with Akers, who personally accounted for 445 of Clinton’s 525 yards.

And so he was asked, “Was this last game your best game ever?”

“I’ve never had one of these before,” he replied, lifting the championship trophy. “This is what makes it the best ever.”

He was not perfect. On a second quarter touchdown run, Pearl’s Willie Brown III crossed the goalline, impressively carrying Akers with him.

Twenty years from now, Brown can tell his children about the touchdown he scored, carrying Cam into the end zone.

Rick Cleveland is Mississippi Today’s sports columnist. Read his previous columns and his Sports Daily blog. Reach Rick at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.