PCA rolls with surge in second

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 27, 2008

First, Caleb Kellum was blindsided. It wasn’t long before the rest of the University Christian team suffered the same fate.

Porters Chapel exploded for 27 points in the last 6 1/2 minutes of the first half Friday night, including a 56-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Holmes to Colby Rushing on the final play, and rolled to a 41-7 win over University Christian.

Holmes completed 6 of 8 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, ran for another score, and had a key punt return that fueled the Eagles’ outburst. Josh Perry added 113 yards and two touchdowns rushing as PCA (6-0, 2-0 District 5-A), the top-ranked team in MPSA Class A, remained undefeated.

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“It’s a huge district win. We’re right where we need to be heading into that big two-game stretch with Central Hinds and Benton in a couple of weeks,” PCA coach Randy Wright said.

PCA’s surge started with an on-field tirade by Wright. The Eagles, who had outscored opponents 131-22 in the first half entering the game, punted on two of their first three possessions and allowed University Christian (1-5, 1-2) to march down the field for a tying score early in the second quarter. After Dillon Chappell gained nine yards on the first play of University Christian’s next series, Wright called timeout and berated his team for its sluggish play.

The message seemed to get through.

After a short run on second down, Kellum dropped back to pass. PCA linebacker Jeremy Roach came untouched on a blitz from the quarterback’s blind side and drilled him in the back. The ball popped in the air and fell incomplete.

“Coach called the right play. It was a motion backside blitz and when I saw the receiver slide out I knew I had a shot. I’ve always dreamed of that,” Roach said with a smile.

The incompletion forced the Flames to punt and things quickly slid out of control from there.

Holmes gathered in the punt at his own 33 and returned it to midfield — only to have offsetting personal foul penalties wipe out the modest return and force a rekick. Holmes took it again at his own 33, but this time he zigzagged through the defense for a 46-yard gain to the UC 21. Perry broke free for a touchdown on the next play to give PCA a 14-7 lead with 6:20 to play in the half.

University Christian went three-and-out on its next series, and a short punt set up a short scoring drive for the Eagles. Holmes’ 1-yard sneak made it 21-7. On the ensuing kickoff, Kellum was corralled inside his own 5, leading to another three-and-out and a punt. This one was blocked by Jacob Rachal and recovered in the end zone by Travis Thornell for another touchdown.

The Flames got the ball back again and moved to midfield, but couldn’t even run out the clock without disaster befalling them.

Facing a fourth-and-4 with 8 seconds left, the Flames tried a halfback pass that fell incomplete. PCA got the ball back with 2 seconds left, and made something happen. Holmes rolled to his right and, just before he was hit, flung a wobbly pass about 15 yards up the field to Rushing. Rushing spun away from a defender, made several cuts to avoid three others, and took it in for a 56-yard touchdown to make it 34-7 at halftime.

Although it was a string of breakdowns and big plays that led to PCA’s surge, Holmes credited the tongue-lashing the team got from Wright for kicking them into gear.

“The timeout,” Holmes laughed when asked whether the spark was the tirade or Roach’s big hit. “Coach chewed us out. After that talk, it fired us up. It got us focused and ready to play. We responded well to that.”