Let the border war’ begin: PCA, Tallulah fire 1st shots

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 29, 2000

Sitting just 20 miles apart, Porters Chapel and Tallulah Academy would appear to be natural rivals. They play each other in most sports, including basketball and baseball, yet will meet tonight at 7:30 for the first time in a varsity football game.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a rivalry, however. It’s there and it’s bitter.

“Tallulah is my biggest rival, and I’m trying to preach to these kids that it should be their biggest rival too,” said PCA assistant Randy Wright, who feels Tallulah ran up the score in a junior high game last season.

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“This is a border war as far as I’m concerned.”

Tallulah coach I.T. Crothers said he has been trying to schedule PCA (3-3, 0-2 Conference 7-A) for several years as a non-conference game, but didn’t have any luck.

“Ever since I took over, I’ve been trying to get them to play us. It seemed like a natural thing, but they just would not play us,” Crothers said. “We like those 18- to 20-mile trips.”

When the MPSA finalized its realignment plan in the spring, PCA and Tallulah were finally placed in the same conference. Now, Crothers said his Trojans (5-1, 1-1) are ready to say hello.

“We’re kind of looking at them like they’re the new kids on the block, and we want to give them a warm reception,” Crothers said.

The Eagles are looking for a breakthrough win. Despite being .500, they’ve been close in two losses. A win over a powerful Tallulah squad could propel them through the stretch run.

“If we beat Tallulah, it’ll really turn everybody’s head. We’re capable, we’ve just got to step it up another level,” PCA receiver Allen Pugh said.

Beyond being just a big game for bragging rights, it’s an important one in the race for the second playoff spot in Conference 7-A. Tallulah needs a win to stay in second place behind undefeated River Oaks, while PCA needs one just to have any chance.

With so much on the line, neither team is taking the game lightly.

“It’s going to be a tough test, I’ll say that. I watched them play River Oaks and they played them pretty even. They’re about as tough as anybody we’ve played all year,” PCA head coach Bubba Mims said. River Oaks beat Tallulah 21-7 last week and PCA 35-0 earlier in the season. “We’re going to do everything we can to win, but we know it’s a tough task.”

What Tallulah does isn’t a secret the Trojans line up and run over opponents.

That they’ve been able to do it so successfully is surprising considering the top players from last season’s South State runnerup all graduated.

“I anticipated at the first of the season that we’d go over .500, but each week things get better and the kids get a little more experienced,” Crothers said.

Ryan Baker leads the team with 367 yards and four touchdowns, while Edwin Fortenberry completes the 1-2 punch with 302 yards and five TDs. Quarterback Matt Paxton has 184 yards passing, but is also a threat to run.

“What we do is try to drive it down their throats if that’s possible,” Crothers said.

The Eagles, on the other hand, have taken off some of the shackles that were on the offense in the early part of the season. PCA still features a run-based attack led by Jeremiah Riggs (803 yards, six TDs) and Dustin Abbott (401 yards, two TDs), but will add new wrinkles here and there to spice things up.

Defensively, the Eagles are also phasing in several new sets that may prove to be wild cards against Tallulah, which didn’t receive any film from Mims’ debut last week in a 20-13 win over Pine Hills.

“I don’t know how anybody else can know what to expect. We’re running sandlot football and we don’t know what to expect,” Pugh said. “It’s the funnest football I’ve ever played.”