Eagles’ secondary expects test from pass-happy Lee

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 29, 2004

[10/29/04]All season long, Porters Chapel’s secondary has feasted on opposing quarterbacks’ errant throws. By the end of tonight’s first-round playoff game against Lee, Ark., they’ll either be fat and happy or sick to their stomachs.

Lee runs a pass-happy, spread offense that is unlike anything PCA (9-1) has faced this year. The Cougars (8-2) have scored 385 points an average of 38.5 per game and quarterback Landon Bullard has thrown for 25 touchdowns.

The game begins at 7 p.m. at PCA. Admission is $6.

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“That’s different than anything we’ve seen all year. They’re a very high-powered offense and have a very gifted quarterback,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “We’re very concerned about how to contain their offense.”

If there’s one thing PCA does well on defense, it would seem to be defending the pass.

The Eagles have 18 interceptions on the season, and have used a speedy yet small defensive line to register 20 sacks. Nine of the interceptions have been by sophomore cornerback Cole Smith. Smith has returned five of his picks for touchdowns, and the team has nine returns for scores.

“As soon as I get one, it’s like everybody is there blocking for me. It’s just a team effort,” Smith said. “It’s a great feeling to score a touchdown, but to score one on defense, that makes it so much better.”

Smith saved his biggest and best return for last during the regular season. Last week, Tri-County was driving for a potential backbreaking score midway through the third quarter.

Rebel quarterback John Mark Johnson tried to force a pass between Smith and another defender at the goal line, and Smith tipped the ball twice to himself before securing it a yard deep in the end zone. Smith then started out of the end zone, got several blocks and evaded a few tackles on his way to a 101-yard touchdown.

The score briefly put the Eagles ahead 14-13, and they eventually won 21-19 to clinch their first district title since 1982.

“It seems like he’s always in the right place at the right time. That’s just him, though,” laughed sophomore safety Michael Busby, who has returned one of his two interceptions this season for a TD.

Smith’s touchdown against Tri-County turned the tide of that game, and could have far-reaching effects deep into the playoffs.

The victory gave PCA a home playoff game tonight and allowed it to avoid a three-hour bus trip to West Helena, Ark. Instead, Lee will make the long trip down Highway 61.

Depending on coin flips the tiebreaker if two first-place teams meet in the playoffs and potential opponents, PCA could also have homefield advantage for as long as it lasts in the postseason.

It might be a huge help for a young PCA team, although Wright said it shouldn’t bother an experienced Lee squad tonight.

“They have a veteran team, a lot of seniors, and kids that have been in the playoffs before,” Wright said. “I don’t expect homefield advantage to be that big a deal.”