Banged-up Eagles face stiff challenge early

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 22, 2002

Andrew Embry of Porters Chapel goes through a handoff drill with assistant coach Randy Wright during practice on Wednesday. Embry will be forced to miss at least the first game on Friday against Tensas. (The Vicksburg Post/VICTOR SUMERALL)

[08/22/02]As Porters Chapel Academy prepares for its season opener Friday night against Tensas, the good news is the defense is looking better than expected.

The bad news is the offense is struggling to put the ball in the end zone, and may start the season without one of its top playmakers.

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Freshman quarterback Gerald Mims, slated to be the starter, injured his right knee during a jamboree game last week against Huntington. He’ll have an MRI sometime in the next few days, and PCA head coach Bubba Mims said his son is doubtful for Friday’s game.

“Gerald is about 75 percent. He’s still questionable. We won’t really know until the last minute,” the coach said, adding that doctors believed there was some damage to cartilage, but nothing was torn. “There’s a little looseness in there that we’re a little scared of.”

If Gerald Mims can’t go, the quarterbacking duties would fall to either Ryan Hoben or Aaron Curry. A third quarterback, Andrew Embry, is academically ineligible for the season opener.

Both Hoben and Curry saw playing time last year, but also struggled at times. They combined for 367 yards on 20-of-61 passing, but also threw 10 interceptions.

Mims played in four games as an eighth-grader last year and completed 13 of 25 passes for 251 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions.

“Losing Gerald will hurt, because he’s one of our better athletes. On offense and defense,” Bubba Mims said. “But as far as limiting what we can do, he’s taken most of the snaps in practice but the other guys are capable of getting the job done.”

Nevertheless, both teams figure to rely heavily on the running game on Friday. Tensas’ biggest strength is its speed, with tailback Tucker Kifer one of the best sprinters in the Mississippi Private Schools Association. Fullback Cody Hill is only a freshman, but at 225 pounds is one of the Chiefs’ biggest players.

“We’ve got some decent speed and don’t have any size,” Tensas coach Chris Jacobs said.

Part of the reason for Tensas’ lack of size is its youth. After losing a dozen seniors from last year’s 9-2 squad, 10 of the 16 players on this year’s roster are freshmen or sophomores.

Overall, Jacobs has been pleased with the progress of the younger players, but he said it’s also caused its share of mistakes.

“We made a lot of mistakes in our jamboree last week,” Jacobs said. “The last two years, the kids already knew this stuff and this year they’re having to come in and learn it all new.”

PCA will try to exploit its size advantage with senior running back Wesley Purvis, a Chamberlain-Hunt transfer. Purvis has wowed the PCA coaches so far, rushing for nearly 80 yards on seven carries in last week’s jamboree. In two varsity seasons at CHA, he ran for 1,523 yards.

If Purvis can move the ball on the ground, it will take some pressure off of the quarterbacks, and if the Eagles’ defense continues to hold up it will help even more.

PCA allowed only two scores in last week’s jamboree, including one on a long play. Heading into the preseason, the Eagles’ offense was expected to be the team’s strength and the play of the defense last week was a pleasant surprise.

Although PCA may appear to have an edge on paper, its players were quick to dismiss it. They noted that Tensas has won three straight over PCA, including a 49-19 rout last season, and are expecting a dogfight.

“We can’t look at them like that,” senior linebacker and fullback Josh Rush said. “They beat us the last two years in a row. They’re going to be good.”