PCA, Brookhaven unleash prolific offense|[11/16/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 16, 2006

For the last three weeks, the Porters Chapel Eagles have been on a tour of great southern running backs.

From Natchez to Baton Rouge, they’ve seen some of the best backs the Mississippi Private Schools Association has to offer. The latest stop on PCA’s odyssey comes tonight in Brookhaven, where they face Brookhaven Academy (11-1) and quarterback Price Sessums in a second-round Academy-AA playoff game.

The 5-foot-9 Sessums has rushed for 1,923 yards and 29 touchdowns this season, making him the third straight back the Eagles have faced with at least 1,900 yards.

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&#8220It’s been a tough draw. All on the road and probably the three top runners in Academy football,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. &#8220But we passed two tests and we’ve got to pass the third this week.”

Indeed, PCA (9-3) did pass, but it wasn’t all with flying colors.

The Eagles knocked Central Private’s Justin Couvillion out of the game with a rib injury last Friday and cruised to a 34-6 win in the opening round of the playoffs. But the week before that, Trinity’s Stevan Ridley ran for 390 yards and threw for 128 more in a 42-41 PCA win in the regular-season finale.

Sessums is more like Ridley, a threat to run and throw, than Couvillion, who was strictly a runner. In addition to his gaudy rushing totals, Sessums has thrown for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. He’s also scored four times on interception and kick returns.

A defensive gameplan similar to the one used on Couvillion might help PCA, however.

The Eagles punished the Central Private star, hitting him hard several times before finally knocking him out of the game. If they can get to the smallish Sessums, the hits might start to take a toll.

&#8220It should, if we can get to him like we did to Couvillion last week,” said PCA defensive lineman Michael Roach, who has four sacks this season.

If PCA can’t stop Sessums, it will just have to take the Ridley approach – outscore him. It’s something PCA is well-equipped to do, since it might have the fourth-best back in Class AA.

Quarterback Hayden Hales has thrown for a school-record 2,023 yards and 22 touchdowns this season, and also rushed for a team-high 792 yards. He took most of his snaps against Central Private at tailback and ran for 112 yards on 23 carries, but still completed 10 of 18 passes for 190 yards and two TDs.

Hales has directed one of the most potent offenses in Class AA. The Eagles have about 4,500 total yards this season – split almost 50-50 between rushing and passing – and have scored at least 30 points in each of their last five games.

&#8220They’ve got so many weapons on offense and are very balanced with what they do,” said Brookhaven coach Bo Milton, a longtime coach at Tri-County before moving south. &#8220If you pressure Hayden, he runs, so we have to be very careful there. We just have to be solid in coverage and not give up big pass plays.”