Fast-starting PCA hard to handle|PREP FOOTBALL

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2008

For Porters Chapel Academy, the National Anthem has sounded like a post call this season.

The Eagles have exploded out of the gate like a bunch of thoroughbreds in every game they’ve played. They’ve outscored opponents 131-22 in the first half in their first five games, scored in the first 30 seconds of the last three, and generally overwhelmed their foes while rolling up a 5-0 record heading into tonight’s home game with University Christian.

“It’s been a good advantage for us the last three weeks. It’s a goal to start well,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “We’ve played well in the first half. It’s been a point of emphasis, and so far, so good.”

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The last three weeks have been a case study in how to demoralize an opponent early. PCA returned the opening kickoff for touchdowns against Prairie View and Veritas. Last week, against West Memphis Christian, the Eagles scored on the first play from scrimmage and used the momentum to build a 42-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

“It sets the tone real early and lets them know who we are. It’s a big motivation killer for them,” said PCA quarterback Clayton Holmes, who has 1,157 all-purpose yards and 12 total touchdowns this season.

Three of Holmes’ scores, including both opening kickoffs, have come on kick returns. As a team, PCA has four kick returns for touchdowns — including punts and kickoffs — and is averaging 34.7 yards per return. Although kick returns are in inexact science, since one block can either spring a runner for a touchdown or catch him for a short gain if it’s missed, the Eagles seem to have found a formula that works.

“When I catch a kickoff I run to the middle and look for a seam. If I run one back it’s because of really good blocking,” Holmes said. “Every time I’m back there I’m thinking of a touchdown. I always pick a good block and take off to the sideline.”

PCA (5-0, 1-0 District 5-A) will look for another fast start this week against a University Christian team that enters with a 1-4 record. The one win was a forfeit last week against CM&I, which dropped its football program before the season.

Wright warned that the Flames are better than their record indicates, however. Among the four losses is a setback to Class AAA East Rankin and losses to Newton and Sylva Bay, both favorites to compete for a playoff berth out of District 4-A. University Christian’s four on-field opponents have a combined record of 12-8. Wright called the Flames a dangerous team that comes to Vicksburg with its playoff hopes hanging by a thread.

“If they lose, that’s two losses in the district and they’re not getting in that way. That’ll be five losses total, and their chances at a wild card aren’t good. I see it as University Christian being backed into a corner, and they’re going to come out swinging. It’s up to us to know what to do,” Wright said. “They’ve had two weeks to prepare, two weeks to get healthy and two weeks to focus. We feel like we’re going to get their best shot this week.”