Tallulah turns eye toward playoffs

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2008

From staff reports

On Saturday, Tallulah Academy coach Doug Branning will start drawing up a gameplan for his team’s first-round playoff opponent. For now, he and the Trojans are just enjoying being there.

The final MPSA power point rankings and playoff brackets won’t be made official until Saturday, but barring a major shake-up, Tallulah clinched a wild-card berth with last week’s win over CENLA. It’s the school’s first playoff berth since 2003, and a remarkable turnaround from last year’s 1-10 record.

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“These guys have climbed a lot of hills. It’s a big deal to the kids, to me, to coach (John) Weaver, and to the community as a whole,” said Branning, who was hired at Tallulah in July.

Tallulah’s first-round opponent is still unclear. The Trojans can still finish as the top wild card in the South half of the Class A bracket and face Porters Chapel, or finish second and play Sylva Bay. Where they go will depend on the outcome of tonight’s regular season finale against Briarfield, and Wayne Academy’s game against Class AA Leake Academy. A Wayne victory could vault it past Tallulah (6-4), while a Tallulah win would shore up its lead for the top wild card spot.

Riverdale is lurking in third, but its game against Class AA Adams Christian (1-8) tonight was a late addition to the schedule and will not count toward the power point rankings.

Although a first-round game at PCA would be a much shorter trip, Branning said he didn’t have a preference on who he played in the first round.

“I don’t know what the matchups would be. As far as PCA or Sylva Bay, it’s pick your poison. They both pound you into submission,” Branning said.

So can Briarfield (8-2), which is also headed to the playoffs and will play Hebron Christian next week. The Rebels are averaging 36 points per game, and have scored at least 29 in each of their last six outings. Their only two losses were a narrow 16-14 defeat to Strider in a game that ultimately decided the District 2-A championship, and a 61-29 pounding at the hands of Class AA juggernaut Trinity.

“They just run it right at you and score points. Most of their points are because people can’t tackle them,” Branning said. “You know good and well what it’s going to come down to. If you tackle them, you have a chance to win. If you don’t, you have no chance.”

Central Hinds at Tri-County

Central Hinds earned its second straight trip to the Class A playoffs by beating District 5-A rival Veritas 31-6 last week. The win put the Cougars into second place in the district, and was the only way they could have made the playoffs — their power point rating is too low to contend for a wild-card spot, even with a win over Class AA Tri-County (3-7) tonight.

Central Hinds’ reward for reaching the playoffs may be a short stay, though. It’ll travel to face defending Class A champion Glenbrook in the first round next week.

University Christian at Sharkey-Issaquena

Both University Christian (3-6) and Sharkey-Issaquena (1-9) finish off a disappointing season tonight in Rolling Fork. SIA has not scored more than one touchdown in any game since routing North Sunflower 48-6 on Sept. 12. University Christian, meanwhile, will try to go out on a strong note by winning its third straight game after a 1-5 start.

Hinds AHS at Enterprise-Lincoln

Hinds AHS (7-2, 4-1 Region 6-2A) will tune up for the playoffs next week with an easy matchup at Enterprise-Lincoln (1-8, 0-5) tonight. Hinds finished 2-8 last season, but has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence thanks to an astonishing degree of versatility among its key skill players.

Jeremy Lee is second on the team in rushing, with 401 yards, but is also second in passing yardage and the team’s leading receiver with 14 catches for 258 yards. Kiente Williams has split time at quarterback with Lee and has thrown for 382 yards and five scores — but also rushed for 346 yards and caught seven passes. The team’s leading rusher, Darious Newton, has gained 1,278 yards while also catching nine passes for 248 yards. Newton has also thrown three halfback passes, including one for a touchdown.

South Delta at Simmons

South Delta (6-3, 3-1) faces Hollandale Simmons (7-1, 3-1) for second place in Region 2-4A, and a first-round home playoff game next week. Leland has already clinched first place in the region by beating South Delta and Simmons the last two weeks.

Lawrence County at Port Gibson

Port Gibson (0-8, 0-4) will wrap up a third straight disappointing season tonight at home against Lawrence County (8-1, 4-0 Region 6-4A), which is ranked fifth in Class 4A. Port Gibson has won just two of its last 35 games since reaching the playoffs in 2004 and, barring one of the biggest upsets in the state this year, will complete its second winless season in three years.

Madison Parish at B.T. Washington

Despite a struggling offense that has scored one touchdown in its last three games, Madison Parish remains mathematically alive for a playoff spot. The Jaguars (1-7, 1-2) can win the District 1-3A championship by beating Booker T. Washington (5-3, 2-1) tonight, and Richwood (5-3, 3-0) in next week’s season finale.