Eagles need a win tokeep pace with leaders

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 18, 2002

[10/18/02]The last mad dash to the Mississippi Private Schools Association playoffs begins tonight, and Porters Chapel Academy desperately needs a win to avoid falling by the wayside.

The Eagles (5-3, 2-2 Conference 5-A) host Deer Creek, a team favored by some to win Conference 5-A in the preseason, in a game crucial to their playoff hopes. A win keeps the Eagles alive for a wild-card bid, while a loss ends any chance they might have to secure one of the two berths.

Winning the game might be easier said than done, however. After losing starting tailback Wesley Purvis to a knee injury two weeks ago, PCA coach Bubba Mims was forced to shuffle his offensive lineup.

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The results were mixed. The team moved the ball well, but had several costly turnovers and scored only seven points in a win over Benton last week.

“It was first-game jitters in a lot of different spots, even though it was the eighth game of the year,” Mims said. “We had some people playing different positions. It was like starting over.”

The moves included putting starting quarterback Gerald Mims at tailback, giving fullback Josh Rush more carries, and switching Ryan Hoben from receiver to quarterback.

Hoben, who had several starts at quarterback last season, responded well. He was 3-for-8 passing for 106 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He’ll get another start at quarterback this week.

“As of right now, he’s going to play it again,” Mims said. “The experience last year helped him, and he’ll do better this game with having last week’s experience.”

Deer Creek has also had to deal with its share of injuries. Starting tailback Chris Welch, a junior who scored eight touchdowns this season, injured his knee in the second game of the year. He hobbled through a few more games before he was forced to shut it down for the year with a torn meniscus.

Welch was the Warriors’ fastest player, and Deer Creek coach Billy Ray Harber said that his team was at a distinct disadvantage this week when it comes to speed.

“They look like they’ve got a lot of speed,” Harber said. “(Losing Purvis) might be a blow to them, but you look at their quarterback and he’s got excellent speed. I don’t know if we can contain them.”

Unlike PCA, Deer Creek has already seen its playoff hopes disappear. An early loss to Briarfield killed the momentum of a 2-0 start, and the loss of Welch crippled the offense, Harber said.

Deer Creek (5-3) lost three straight conference games and fell out of the race for one of the two automatic playoff spots. Now, the Warriors are playing for pride, Harber said.

“Our only hope is the wild-card, and there are a lot of schools ahead of us … It’s out of our hands, because we’ve lost three conference games,” Harber said. “It’s sort of disappointing, because we lost two games in a row and looked real good, and then we had a knee injury and had to go back and redo some things.”