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Trojans’ potent run game invades PCA

Tallulah Academy running back Cade Marsh, right, goes through a drill with a teammate during practice on Wednesday. The Trojans bring a strong running attack into Porters Chapel Academy tonight. (Melanie Duncan ThortisThe Vicksburg Post)

[9/12/03]Since they met for the first time in 2000, Tallulah Academy and Porters Chapel have developed a natural and spirited rivalry.

When the teams meet to renew it tonight, the rivalry may be the last thing PCA is worried about.

The Eagles (1-2, 0-1 Conference 5-A) enter on a two-game losing streak and desperately need a win to avoid falling to 0-2 in conference play. With so many solid teams in Conference 5-A, two losses wouldn’t crush PCA’s playoff hopes but it would put a serious damper on them.

“I don’t think anybody wants to start out 0-2 in the district,” PCA coach Bubba Mims said. “As far as the district goes, Tallulah is mighty strong but there’s some other strong teams, too. Two losses might be good enough to finish second.”

While the Eagles are reeling, Tallulah is rolling thanks to a stout defense and a strong running game.

The Trojans have allowed just six points in three wins, two of them shutouts. They have also amassed nearly 800 rushing yards with a quartet of backs that have their own niche and specialty in the offense.

Tailback Cade Marsh is the workhorse, totaling 2,641 yards and 24 touchdowns in two seasons as a starter. Another tailback, Cole Grissom, ran for 487 yards and six TDs in 2002 and already has 271 yards and three TDs this year to prove himself as a reliable second option. Fullback Jon Dukes is a solid blocker.

Quarterback Preston Walker runs the offense, which usually consists of calling a play and handing off to Marsh and Grissom.

“Preston’s strength is his football intelligence. He’ll wind up calling half of his plays, if not more,” Tallulah coach Jacky Thames said. “That’s what makes Preston tick. He’s just so smart back there. He doesn’t blow plays.”

Making plays is Marsh’s specialty. He led all Vicksburg-area rushers in touchdowns last season, with 16, and was a big reason why the Trojans went 9-3 and claimed the Conference 5-A championship. So far this season, he has rushed for 350 yards and seven touchdowns on 41 carries.

Marsh’s durability he’s carried the ball 425 times over the last two seasons is also remarkable. Thames said he’d get plenty more chances to add to the total this season.

“We know everybody’s going to key on Cade, but he’s still going to tote that apple,” Thames said.

Opening holes for Marsh and Grissom is Dukes’ job. He doesn’t get as many carries as the tailbacks, although he does make the most of it when he does get the ball.

Dukes scored the game’s only touchdown in last season’s finale against Briarfield, a 6-0 Tallulah win that clinched the conference title. The rare touchdown was made even sweeter for Dukes since it came against Briarfield, his former school.

“It was real cool,” Dukes said as his backfield mates smiled in approval.

While the backs get most of the glory, none of them wanted to take the credit for the success of the running game. Like most good backs, they deflected that praise to their offensive line.

Tallulah’s line averages 225 pounds per man, a respectable total for Academy-A football. And whatever they may lack in sheer bulk they make up for in strength and ability. Walker said the evidence of that is clear whenever he hands off.

“You can tell when I hand off and look behind, and there’s a big hole there,” Walker said. “All the backs ask for is a hole, and they’ll do the rest.”