Eagles gear up to face Manchester

Published 11:42 am Friday, October 21, 2011

Tonight’s non-district game between Porters Chapel and Class AA Manchester Academy might be just for pride, but the contest will still have a statewide audience.

The game will be videostreamed live on Russ Robinson’s Friday Night Under the Lights website at fnutl.com. Robinson, who handles radio duties for the Mississippi High School Activities Association football and basketball championship games, will handle the play-by-play chores for the webcast.

The Eagles (5-4) are finding new ways of motivation to get up for what is essentially a meaningless game against Manchester Academy (6-3).

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“I told them, we’re very close to being a pretty good football team,” PCA coach Wade Patrick said. “I want to see us play a whole football game. Almost as perfect as we could play. I just want to see what would happen. We’ve got the potential. If we could put it together for a game, we could be pretty tough and we haven’t done it.”

Patrick, who often squared off against Manchester coach Benny McLendon during his time as an assistant at Bayou Academy, said he expects one thing.

No surprises.

“They’re a good team,” Patrick said. “They’re nothing fancy. You’ve just got to stop them.”

The Mavericks run a lot of wishbone, but will go to a spread look to mix it up. In the wishbone, the option game requires a defense to play perfect assignment football and maintain gap discipline. If one player misses his assignment, or is caught or blocked out of position, the offense can rip off huge runs.

But the pass can’t be completely ignored, either. With so many defenders close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run, quarterbacks can take advantage of single coverage or a blown coverage for big chunks of yards.

“We’ve seen this before, so it’s nothing new for our guys,” Patrick said. “We can’t let a tight end sneak out, wide open and give up anything big like that. We’ve had some missed assignments like that and while it hasn’t burned us, I guarantee other teams are watching and noting it.”

Defensively, Manchester tends to play things conservatively with a five-man front. But like their offense, the lack of tricks is more than compensated for by nearly flawless execution.

Last week, PCA had its worst offensive game of the season in a 6-0 loss to Heidelberg Academy. The 75 yards of total offense and four first downs were a season low for the Eagles. The worst part of the defeat was it ended their hopes of hosting a first-round playoff game.

A fumbled snap on the goal line ended PCA’s lone scoring chance on the opening drive. It’s been a theme.

“It’s bad enough not to score a touchdown, but we’re not giving ourselves a chance to get points,” Patrick said. “We’re not getting anything out of it. You score a touchdown on the opening drive or early in the game, you put the pressure on the other team. We turn the ball over in the red zone and it causes the kids to hang their heads. It happens and it’s done. You’ve got to move on to the next series.”

The biggest thing Patrick wants his team to gain from tonight’s game is a boost of confidence going into the season finale at Prentiss Christian.

“A win here would be great,” Patrick said. “They are going to pose some challenges for us, but I think a win would give this group a lot of confidence that they can beat just about anybody.”