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Huge victories for WC, Porters Chapel

Eagles shock Tri-County to earn first district championship since ’82

FLORA Porters Chapel turned the red zone into a dead zone for Tri-County.

PCA’s defense stopped the Rebels four times inside the 20-yard line, forced four turnovers, and scored on Cole Smith’s 101-yard interception return in a 21-19 win Friday night.

The victory gives PCA (9-1, 7-0) its first district championship since 1982, and the first outright title in school history. It was also the first time PCA has won at Tri-County.

The reward for the Eagles is a home playoff game against Lee, Ark., next week.

“Words can’t describe how I’m feeling right now,” said PCA coach Randy Wright, his shirt drenched from the contents of the water cooler his players emptied onto him. “All the hard work that this team and this coaching staff has put into this season, for us to be able to go out and get done what we got done tonight is just one of the greatest accomplishments I could ever be a part of.”

Gerald Mims had 81 of his 120 rushing yards after halftime for PCA, caught a touchdown pass and scored the game-winning TD on a 9-yard run late in the third quarter.

Mims also forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter and ended Tri-County’s final drive with a diving interception.

“I wanted this game more than any game I wanted in my life,” Mims said. “I’ve got a lot of emotions in this season. I know everybody else does, and we play just like family out here.”

Tri-County dominated the game in terms of total yards, but could not put the ball in the end zone. The Rebels had 326 rushing yards including a game-high 166 by quarterback John Mark Johnson and moved the ball at will between the 20-yard lines. Two drives ended in interceptions and the Rebels turned it over on downs twice.

“Our red zone defense was the difference in the ballgame,” Wright said. “The kids just seemed to move forward a little better down by the goal line.”

One of the interceptions turned the game around completely.

Tri-County led 13-7 at halftime and was going in for another score early in the third quarter. It reached the PCA 17 before the Eagles’ defense stiffened.

Johnson dropped back and fired into the end zone. His pass for Joshua Osborne was between two defenders, though, and tipped into the air. Smith tipped the ball again before gathering it in a yard deep in the end zone, then ran out. He got a block from Mims at the 10-yard line, broke a tackle around the 30, and cut back two more times on his way to his fifth interception return for a touchdown this season.

“I didn’t know I was in the end zone, to be honest with you,” Smith said of his decision to take the ball out of the end zone.

Evan Rogers added the extra point to give PCA a 14-13 lead, but it was short-lived. Tri-County marched 64 yards in just six plays on its next possession and regained the lead on a 5-yard touchdown run by Andy Allen.

The Rebels missed a two-point conversion, leaving the game at 19-14, and PCA scored on Mims’ 9-yard TD run soon after to take a 21-19 lead.

Tri-County was far from finished.

Johnson hit Osborne on a 58-yard pass play with about 9 1/2 minutes left in the game to give Tri-County a first-and-goal at the PCA 9.

An apparent touchdown was negated by a holding penalty, and the Rebels eventually faced a fourth-and-goal at the 4-yard line.

On fourth down, Johnson faked a handoff to Drew Posey and started around the left side, but was stuffed for a two-yard loss.

“It never crossed my mind” to kick a field goal,” Milton said. “First-and-goal at the 5, we should be able to score. First-and-goal from the 15, we should be able to score.”