Junior Eagles closing in on truly perfect season
Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 17, 2002
Judd Mims (85) runs behind lineman Josh Emfinger during the Porters Chapel Academy junior high team’s practice on Monday. At right is linebacker Spencer Carney. The Junior Eagles have allowed only eight points this season and are 7-0 heading into their final game tonight. (The Vicksburg Post/Melanie Duncan)
[10/17/02]It was late in the game when disaster struck.
As the running back searched for yardage, a jarring hit knocked the football loose. The players on the sideline held their breath, then yelled in horror as the defender scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown.
It was only the second game of the year, but the biggest goal the Porters Chapel Academy junior high team wanted to reach this season was gone in an instant.
Such is the life when perfection is your goal.
“We had a goal going into the season not to let anybody score a point on us. And with the exception of that error, they haven’t,” PCA coach Randy Wright said.
Six weeks later, the fumble that Humphreys Academy returned for a touchdown remains the only blemish on the Junior Eagles’ record. They’ve outscored their opponents 276-8 this season and can cap a perfect 8-0 year by beating two-time defending conference champion Sharkey-Issaquena (6-1) tonight.
The game, which is for the Conference 5-A junior high championship, starts at 7 p.m.
“We’re just going to have to strap it on and play like we do every Thursday night,” said PCA linebacker Blake Purvis, who has 64 tackles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown this season.
Led by a punishing defense that has forced 24 turnovers and scored four touchdowns, most of PCA’s games have been over by halftime. Other than an 8-0 win over Briarfield two weeks ago, no team has been closer than 30 points.
That was expected, however. What wasn’t expected has been the offensive output. PCA has scored more than 40 points in all but two games, and gone over 50 twice.
Led by quarterback Tyler Wells (609 yards passing), wide receiver Michael Busby (13 receptions for 405 yards and five TDs), and running backs Spencer “Moose” Carney (449 yards, six TDs on only 28 carries) and Josh Lancaster (688 rushing yards, 10 TDs on 46 carries), PCA has totaled more than 2,200 yards in seven games.
“We thought we’d be able to shut them out. I didn’t think we’d be able to score that many points,” said Wells, who is 20-for-41 passing with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s also run for one score and returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns.
Despite the lopsided scores, Wright said he hasn’t run up the score. Most of the points have been scored on one- or two-play drives, and in some games he has punted before fourth down.
“We’ve been pretty much rolling it up on everybody in the first half,” Wright said. “That’s just the way it happens. It’s just regular play-calling. It’s not like we’re trying to run up the score or anything.”
On the defensive side of the ball, though, it’s a different story. The first-team defense hasn’t come out of a game this season in an effort to preserve the shutout streak. As a result, only two teams have finished with positive yardage totals against the Eagles.
Carney has led the defensive onslaught with 89 tackles and two interceptions, while Busby has intercepted six passes and lineman Joey Gerache has 52 tackles and four fumble recoveries.
“The starting defense has not come out. We’re not interested in giving up any points,” Wright said.
This season’s success comes as no surprise to PCA’s followers. Many of the players on this team were members of the school’s undefeated peewee-level team two years ago, and played on the Culkin Critters baseball team that won two state championships and had strong finishes in several national tournaments.
Although it’s a different sport, Wells said the lessons of winning have carried over from baseball to football.
“We feel pretty confident. We’re not used to losing. We know what it’s like to win, and we want to keep it that way,” Wells said.
It’s likely to stay that way for a while. The Junior Eagles have plans of competing for several state championships on the varsity level, but they have to get there first.
Of the 29 players on the roster, 12 are in 8th grade, including Wells, Carney, Gerache, and Busby.
“If we can keep everybody together, we can win up there too,” Purvis said, referring to the high school level.
And when you combine the junior high team’s dominance with another undefeated peewee team this season, the future looks bright for PCA’s entire program.
“There was talk about several state championships with that team, and we haven’t gotten off of that,” said PCA high school coach Bubba Mims, who also coached the Critters baseball teams of the past few years. “It’s the same group that’s won state championships. The same group that’s competed for national championships. Those kids winning championships is nothing new … They’re a special group of kids.”