PCA’s Riggs goes from fill-in to featured back

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 14, 2000

Early last season, Jeremiah Riggs filled in at tailback for Porters Chapel Academy and proved he could carry the load as the featured back.

This season he’s taking the ball and running with it again and again and again and again.

Riggs, who rushed for more than 800 yards after taking over for an injured Dustin Abbott last season, has rushed for 523 yards on a whopping 97 carries in PCA’s first four games this season. He’ll try to add to both of his county-best totals on Friday when PCA (2-2, 0-1 Conference 7-A) travels to Lake Providence to face Briarfield (3-1, 0-0) in a conference matchup.

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“I don’t realize I’ve had that many carries until I see the stats after the game,” said Riggs, who has gone over the 100-yard mark in three of four games this season.

Riggs may not realize it, but PCA’s opponents sure do. Despite his 5-foot-11, 170-pound frame, Riggs uses a punishing running style. Although he has the speed to run around an opponent, he can and often does run through them.

“He’s a hard runner, has good speed, hard to bring down. You’re not going to bring him down arm-tackling,” first-year Briarfield coach Jay Murphree said.

Riggs said he’ll often overhear battered defenders muttering to themselves or teammates.

“I’ve had a couple of them compliment me, saying, That number three, that … runs hard,’ Riggs said, adding with a smile, “When I’m running, I don’t like to take a hit, I like to give a hit too.”

PCA coach Jim Sizemore, who called Riggs “one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached,” said Riggs has come a long way since last season, but there’s still room for improvement.

“As the old saying goes, he’s come a hundred miles. He sees things now that he didn’t see when he first came out here,” Sizemore said. “… Sometimes I don’t know if he concentrates as much as he should. Sometimes he needs to get a little more serious. I think if he would, he would step it up another notch. Instead of a notch, I think he’d step it up another level.”

While the Rebels are concerning themselves with Riggs, they can’t overlook the other man in the backfield. Abbott averages nearly 7 yards and rushed for 279 yards on 41 attempts.

Abbott said he would like more carries, although he has a say in determining Riggs’ workload. Under Sizemore’s system, the coach simply calls the play. Riggs and Abbott decide who carries the ball and who blocks.

“During the game, it’s just getting into the momentum,” Abbott said, explaining how the backs decide who gets the ball.

Riggs said there is no controversy.

The pair, along with the rest of the Eagles, have their work cut out for them this week. The Rebels, just 1-19 over the last two seasons with the one win a 22-19 victory over PCA last season have already tripled that win total by ripping off three straight wins.

Briarfield’s Tony Howard, a Vicksburg Post All-Area selection a year ago, and Lee Randall Manning have combined for more than 800 yards rushing.

“They’re going to make you defend the fullback, make you defend the tailback and I guarantee you the quarterback is no slouch,” Sizemore said. “The play they’re most dangerous on is the option. They run a real good option.”