Eagles face CENLA

Published 11:59 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

After Heidleberg Academy was hit with a postseason ban by the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools for using an ineligible player, Porters Chapel Academy coach Wade Patrick had to quickly change gears.

The two days of film study of Wilkinson County Christian, the MAIS Class A South Central champions, went for naught. Instead of a trip to Woodville, the Eagles (6-5) were moved up to the No. 3 seed from the MAIS A South and into a trip to CENLA Christian in Pineville, La.

The bad news for Patrick is CENLA (9-2) runs a different offense than Wilkinson Christian.

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“You go from two days of study on a team that uses a double tight end (set) and runs it, to a team in CENLA that runs the spread,” Patrick said. “Luckily, the kids only lost a half day of preparation. It was 21⁄2 days for me.”

CENLA has an explosive offense led by quarterback Graham Kelly, who has thrown for 2,171 yards on 133 of 221 passing and 22 touchdowns. Kelly has had six games of 200 yards or more and he likes to spread the ball around. All four of the Wildcats’ receivers have over 400 receiving yards.

Jamar O’Connor is the top threat with 37 receptions for 587 yards and eight scores. David Ober has 32 catches for 690 yards and eight TDs.

The Wildcats can also mix in the run with tailback Jacob Thomas, who has a string of six straight 100-yard games.

“They are very balanced on offense with a great running back,” Patrick said of Thomas, who has rushed for 1,108 yards and 16 touchdowns. Kelly is also a threat with 450 rushing yards.

“The receivers run great routes,” Patrick said. “They are 9-2 for a reason.”

CENLA, however, could not stop the running game of WCCA. That could be good news for the Eagles, who have found a consistent threat with Kawayne Gaston.

Gaston had 167 yards and three touchdowns last week as PCA built a 20-16 lead into the fourth quarter at Prentiss Christian. But the Eagles could not close out Prentiss as it rallied for the 24-20 win to earn a home playoff game against Riverfield.

“We were up at the half, and then on our first drive of the second half we reached their 30, but fumbled on a fullback dive,” Patrick said. “If we go on and score there, I think we win the game. Instead, Prentiss stays in the game, converts a big fourth down with two minutes left, and then beats us on a pass to the tight end.”

For Patrick, the key against CENLA will be to stop Thomas and the Wildcats’ ground game.

“We have got to stop the run,” Patrick said. “The quarterback is too good to stay in man coverage all game. We’ll have to mix in a good bit of zone and hope we can get some pressure.”