Eagle defense holds fast in quarterfinals

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Based on the stats, it was a horrible night for Porters Chapel’s defense.

The Eagles gave up 366 rushing yards. They couldn’t seem to get off the field. When they did make a stop on third down, they allowed Huntington to convert on fourth down.

Football playoffs Friday, 7 p.m.

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Porters Chapel at Glenbrook   How to get there

From I-20 take exit 49. Take 531 North. Cross over Highway 80. Cross over Highway 79. At this point the road becomes Country Club Circle.

Follow Country Club Circle crossing Germantown Road and Lewisville Road. Continue on Country Club Circle until it dead ends in the Glenbrook School parking lot.

And yet, at the end of the night, it seemed like a good game. PCA limited the number of big plays Huntington got on Friday and forced the Hounds to drive the field. After taking a one-point lead late in the fourth quarter, that effort played right into the Eagles’ hands and allowed them to walk off the field with a 27-26 win that sent them to the MPSA Class A semifinals.

“We felt like when we scored at the end we were going to hold them out. They’re a grind-it-out team,” said PCA coach Randy Wright, whose team will face defending Class A champion Glenbrook this week. “They did score four times, but every drive was a long one.”

It was certainly a different kind of defensive effort from the week before,when PCA held Tallulah Academy to 111 yards of total offense and didn’t let them get inside the 19-yard line in a 10-0 win. The victory over Huntington was the definition of bend but don’t break — but if you do break, get it back quickly.

Huntington’s four scoring drives lasted 12, 12, 18 and 13 plays. None lasted less than 6 minutes and 20 seconds, and the longest was an epic 69-yard march that ate up all but the last 38 seconds of the third quarter. PCA went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, and Huntington embarked on another long drive that lasted 6 minute and 46 seconds. Josh Lee capped the second drive with a 4-yard TD run that put Huntington ahead, 26-21.

“We were just doing what we do,” Huntington coach Chad Harkins said. “We run the ball 95 percent of the time. Whatever they lined up in, we were able to handle it.”

Within Huntington’s four scoring drives, though, were few long plays. Out of 66 snaps, only 11 went for 10 yards or more and they attempted only four passes. PCA, by contrast, had nine in 30 snaps and three scoring drives of five plays or less.

“You never know with their type of running backs. They could have broken one any minute. We didn’t give up many plays over 15 yards,” PCA defensive end Reed Gordon said.

PCA’s last quick drive resulted in a a 24-yard touchdown pass from Clayton Holmes to Gordon and gave it a 27-26 lead with just under three minutes to play. Huntington got the ball back near midfield after a botched squib kick, but the Eagles’ defense made the Hounds keep up their same slow, plodding pace. They had only reached the PCA 27 with about 30 seconds to play, and with only one timeout remaining were eventually forced to pass. It was intercepted by Holmes to seal the game.

“We thought if we could get a first down there, we had a chance,” Harkins said.

Now, after two tough, physical games, PCA will need to win a third to advance to the Class A championship game for the first time in school history. Glenbrook features a senior running back, Jack Jiles, who has 1,257 yards this season. The second option, David Thompson, ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-8 second-round win over PCA last season, and is also back.

Sophomore quarterback Hunter Lepper has also thrown for almost 1,700 yards, adding an element PCA has not had to worry about the last two weeks. Although Tallulah attempted 15 passes — mainly because it was behind — both it and Huntington have run-oriented offenses.


Contact Ernest Bowker at ebowker@vicksburgpost.com.