PCA trying to weather adversity

Published 11:39 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Porters Chapel Eagles are building character through weathering adversity.

At least that’s the nice way to spin it.

Porters Chapel is playing behind an offensive line cobbled together with bubble gum, chicken wire and some just plain luck. Center Sam Staggs was lost last week for the season with a knee injury and will return in time for baseball. He’s the second Eagle, following linebacker Rich Murphy, to be put on the shelf for the rest of the year.

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Injuries to both fullbacks forced PCA coach Wade Patrick’s hand when it comes to the playsheet. The same goes for the defensive rotation, as players were forced to learn new positions.

But as Patrick said last week before Friday’s 27-0 win over Park Place, no team was going to feel sorry for the Eagles (4-1, 2-1 District 4-A). So what have they done about their adversity?

Find a way to adapt, improvise and overcome. They did all of that in a splendid victory that kept their playoff hopes alive.

More good news is on the schedule, as the Eagles start a three-game stretch of non-district opponents starting with Benton Academy at home on Friday.

After finding an early-season offensive identity, the Eagles have made a huge change, going from a power-I formation to a spread look. With a 2,000-yard plus passer in the fold, that’s an easy transition. Sophomore quarterback Jonah Masterson was cooly efficient, completing 10 of 14 passes for 200 yards against the Park Place defense. No play was more emblematic of his patience than the Eagles’ first score.

Out of the shotgun, he saw receivers covered downfield. He swung it out to Kawayne Gaston, who took advantage of a big block by Richie Bufkin and went 81 yards for a touchdown.

“They keyed on me and they keyed on the running game and they can’t do both,” said Gaston, who was held to 58 yards rushing.

On the first drive of the second half, leading only 7-0, the Eagles knew that they needed to squelch a steady, but rising tide of momentum by the Crusaders. A nice throw to Alton Burden, who caught a 33-yard TD pass perfectly in stride, did exactly that.

“We made some adjustments in the locker room. In the first half, the (offensive) line was kind of moping around, but in the second half, they dug down deep and helped us get this win,” Masterson said.

While Masterson was sacked twice and Peter Harris had a fumble that erased a scoring chance, the Eagles countered an intense pass rush with some pyrotechnics in the passing game.

“The line played great tonight and did a good job of giving Jonah some protection,” Patrick said. “We really couldn’t run the ball at all. They brought a lot of pressure off the edge and we were able to take advantage of some deep routes.”