PCA embraces rematch with Rebs|[11/08/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 9, 2007

Randy Wright has been friends with Heidelberg coach Judd Johnston for almost a decade. The two have a mutual respect for one another and will likely swap war stories after the season is over.

Johnston said he’ll be happy to see Wright on Friday night. Wright isn’t so happy.

Wright’s Porters Chapel Eagles will load up and head east today to take on Heidelberg in a first-round MPSA Class A playoff game. PCA beat Heidelberg earlier this season, and the matchup was one of the worst ones imaginable, Wright said.

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“I definitely feel like we got the toughest draw we could get in the first round of the playoffs. We feel like they’re a very strong team, and it’s always difficult to beat a good team twice,” Wright said. “They’re going to be extremely motivated to face us. They were the number one team in the state and we beat them very handily.”

For most of the same reasons, Johnston was happy for the chance to welcome his old friend to Heidelberg tonight.

“I most definitely feel like we have the advantage playing them twice. If we had beaten them, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable,” Johnston said.

Heidelberg (7-4) went into a tailspin after its 35-22 loss to PCA on Oct. 5. After a 6-0 start, that one loss started a late-season skid in which the Rebels lost four of their last five. They managed to finish second in District 4-A and won a coin flip to host this playoff game between two second-place teams.

Johnston had a simple explanation for his team’s slide, and it had little to do with a hangover effect from its first meeting with the Eagles.

“Injuries,” he said flatly. “We lost six guys on the offensive side of the ball and five on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t care what league you’re in, that’s going to make it tough to compete.”

Johnston added that several of the injured players have returned now, and are ready for the rematch. They’ll need to do some homework, though, to figure out a way to slow down PCA.

The Eagles (8-3) won eight of nine games after a 1-2 start, and made their mark with the first win over the Rebels. Senior tailback Austin Barber ran for 169 yards and four touchdowns in the first meeting, the first of five straight 100-yard games for him.

His last was a virtuoso 27-carry, 286-yard effort in last week’s regular season finale against Franklin. In his last five games, Barber has rushed for 869 yards and 11 touchdowns — a great season for a lot of backs.

Barber was confident he could have another solid game against the Rebels, but knows it won’t be easy.

“I feel like we can do it again,” Barber said. “It’s going to be a little bit tougher. Their seniors have a goal, same as we do, and don’t want to lose out, same as we do.”