Eagles primed for run at championship

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 2, 2008

There is no hope this season at Porters Chapel.

Hope implies a sense that things may or may not go well; that some luck is needed to succeed. The Eagles are beyond hope. They’ve arrived in a place every team strives for and few achieve — the land of expectations.

PCA has reached the playoffs for four straight seasons and, with 12 starters returning from a team that reached the second round of the playoffs in 2007, the expectation is it’ll be five appearances in a row.

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“Our goal is a state championship. As long as I’m the head coach here, that’s going to be our goal,” said Randy Wright, who is 39-12 in four seasons as PCA’s head coach.

The Eagles have plenty of weapons to put themselves in position for a run at what has thus far been an elusive state title, starting with a pair of key transfers. Josh Perry, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior, transferred from Warren Central and will start for PCA at tailback. Clayton Holmes, another senior, will take over at quarterback after playing at St. Aloysius last year.

Holmes was the Flashes’ second-leading rusher in 2007, with 519 yards, and played some quarterback his sophomore year at Tallulah Academy. Perry gained 73 yards on only 17 carries as a backup at WC last season.

“I’ve said for years that one or two kids can make a world of difference for us. And Clayton Holmes and Josh Perry are two kids that are going to play big roles for us,” Wright said. “Josh has been very solid. I can’t wait to see what  he can do for us. He has a chance to be very good.”

With only 22 players on the roster, one or two kids — or injuries — certainly will make a difference in how the Eagles’ season plays out. That’s especially true along the line, where PCA has just six linemen on the roster. Four of those — Stewart Williams, Caze Brewer, Josh Hill and Ghost Jones — are returning starters, which makes it a formidable group. The lack of depth was a major concern for Wright, however, since all of them will also have to anchor the defensive line.

“Biggest thing is we don’t have any depth. So we have to stay healthy,” Wright said. “If a couple of those guys go down, we’re going to have to convert some tight ends and wide receivers to guards and tackles.”

PCA’s receivers might be big enough to get the job done. Tight ends Reed Gordon and Jacob Rachal are 6-foot-5 and 6-6, respectively.

Defensively, the Eagles return six starters from a unit that held six opponents to a touchdown or less in 2007. Among the returners are linebackers Jeremy Roach and Joe Borrello, who had 249 tackles between them, and safety Colby Rushing, who led Warren County with nine interceptions.

“We’re really fast on defense. We’ve got a lot of hitters that just want to annihilate people,” Rushing said.

The Eagles also have a strong special teams unit. Jason Greer has developed into a solid kicker and punter, while Rushing returned two kicks for touchdowns last season.

“We’re going to have speed, guys that can run kickoffs and punts back, and a weapon with Jason Greer,” Wright said.

With the amount of talent the Eagles have coming back, coupled with their recent winning tradition, they expect to be in the hunt for a playoff spot again if they can navigate a tough schedule. After last week’s opener against Claiborne, PCA faces a pair of Class AA schools in River Oaks and Prairie View the next two weeks. Central Hinds and Benton, who battled PCA atop District 5-A, and an improved University Christian squad loom during the district portion of the schedule.

“I think it’s one of the tougher schedules in 1A. There is no break, no easy week in there,” Wright said. “In the past, we’ve had some weeks where we knew we were going to be able to beat teams. That’s not the case this year. We’re going to have to prepare every week like it’s the state championship game.”