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Chiefs keep winning despite key injuries

[10/25/01]The Tensas Academy Chiefs were a preseason favorite to compete for the Conference 7-A title and a state championship, but they’re still one of this season’s surprises simply because they’re right where they were expected to be.

The Chiefs have had injuries to nearly every key player this season, yet still gutted out wins against several tough teams and started the season 7-0 before losing to Chamberlain-Hunt last week.

They can clinch a playoff spot with a win at Porters Chapel Academy (3-5, 0-3 Conference 7-A) Friday night, and can claim the conference title by beating the Eagles and River Oaks next week.

“A lot of people took it for granted for us to be 7-0. We were finding a way to win football games,” Tensas coach Chris Jacobs said. “It hasn’t been something to sit back and win each week. These guys have had to work and pull a rabbit out of the hat sometimes.”

They’ve had to do it without some of their best offensive players, however. Running back Lee Hale, a 1,400-yard rusher last season, has been held to only 335 yards and five touchdowns this year because of injuries. The latest, a bruised bladder suffered in a pileup last week, may keep him out against PCA.

Offensive tackle Ray Goodwin, a 300-pounder, and defensive back/wide receiver Scott Crigler, who leads the team with 19 catches for 400 yards, have also missed games because of injuries.

Despite the injuries, Tensas has found ways to either outscore opponents or shut them down. The Chiefs average 29 points per game and are giving up only 8.

Quarterback David Crigler has thrown for 856 yards and eight TDs and rushed for another 600 yards and 10 TDs. He’s also played at receiver and tailback as Jacobs has shuffled the lineup to deal with the injuries.

PCA coach Bubba Mims isn’t crying for Jacobs, however. He said the Chiefs are still one of the best teams the Eagles will face, banged-up or not.

“In anything, when you’ve got a lot of key players banged up, I think it hurts you a little bit. But in the two games I’ve watched on film I’ve seen them limping around and beat some good teams,” Mims said.

While the Chiefs have been bitten by the injury bug, PCA has been plagued by a swarm of turnovers. The Eagles have fumbled seven or more times in a game twice this season and have thrown 15 interceptions.

Still, Mims felt that if his team could hang on to the football, they had a chance to hang with Tensas.

“I don’t think it’ll take a perfect game. It’ll take a mighty good one. We can’t make a lot of mistakes,” Mims said, adding that the game was a chance to salvage what has been a disappointing season. “It’s a chance to make a good season out of a mediocre season.”