Loss to PCA started Heidelberg swoon

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2008

It’s only been 10 months since Porters Chapel and Heidelberg Academy last met. It may as well have been years.

The two teams have gone in vastly different directions since PCA’s playoff win last November. The Eagles have ascended to a No. 1 ranking in the MPSA’s Class A, while Heidelberg has started off 0-6. Heidelberg, which has won seven state championships in its storied history, has actually lost 10 of its last 11 games — a streak that started with a regular-season loss to PCA a year ago this week.

Oddly enough, Heidelberg was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class A before that first loss. Just like PCA (6-0) is heading into tonight’s game against the Rebels in Heidelberg.

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“They have a lot of football tradition. It’s very, very unusual for them to be oh-fer,” PCA coach Randy Wright said. “To me they don’t look like they’ve dropped off. They look like an extremely tough matchup for us.”

While Wright often tries to talk up his opponents and limit their bulletin board material, he may have a case this week. The Eagles have five starters who are battling injuries, including three linemen. Stewart Williams and Josh Hill sat out most of last week’s win over University Christian with back and knee injuries, respectively, and tackle Caze Brewer is fighting through a hip injury. Two of the team’s top receivers, Reed Gordon and Jeremy Roach, are also playing hurt, and backups Andrew Wall and Montana McDaniel are not expected to play at all.

The injuries have thrown a shadow of uncertainty over a team that has otherwise looked invincible this season. Other than a 17-15 win over River Oaks on Aug. 29, PCA has scored at least 34 points in every game and won all of them by an average of 31 points.

“There could be as many as four or five starters that could not play Friday night,” Wright said. “It’s really caused us to do some flip-flopping around this week.”

PCA is also embarking on another long road trip, although the route to Heidelberg almost seems like a commute by now. This is the team’s fourth meeting in three years, and the third at Heidelberg. They played a regular-season game there in 2006, and a playoff game in 2007. The baseball team also went there for a playoff series last spring.

The two-hour drive may affect some teams, but it’s not likely to faze the Eagles. This will be their 10th road trip of two hours or more in the last three seasons. No. 11, a hastily secheduled fill-in game at Jackson, Ala., awaits next week.

“When the MPSA does the schedule, two teams have to mutually agree to play each other to guarantee a game. In the past, we haven’t gotten any teams around here to mutually agree, so they stick us with whoever,” Wright said. He added that the long road trips have helped the Eagles prepare for the playoffs, when long-distance matchups are common. “From a mental standpoint it teaches you to focus when you have a long road trip. That has definitely helped in the development of our kids.”

Tonight’s gamesSt. Aloysius hosts PuckettWarren Central at GreenvilleVicksburg at Yazoo CityPorters Chapel at HeidelbergHinds AHS at McLaurinTallulah Academy at TrinityMadison Parish at L. ProvidenceCentral Hinds at BentonS. Delta hosts Tchula-MarshallBriarfield at Central HolmesPort Gibson hosts Forest HillSIA at Greenville-ChristianAll games start at 7 p.m.