Larger opponents give struggling Eagles fits

Published 1:05 pm Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wayne Lynch is ready to pick on someone his own size.

Or, more accurately, for someone his own size to pick on him.

Porters Chapel Academy will go to Jackson on Friday night to face Hillcrest Christian. The Class AAAA school is the third consecutive opponent PCA has faced that’s in a larger classification. Since 2010, PCA has played 14 of its 38 non-district games against bigger schools.

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It’s a scheduling quirk not uncommon in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, but still one that Lynch has grown weary of in his third season as PCA’s head football coach.

“We don’t understand (why), but it’s just the cards we’ve been dealt and unfortunately we have to deal with it,” Lynch said. “Ever since I’ve been here, the first half of our schedule has just been brutal. We’ve played these big teams. We get injuries, then we get into district and we’re scrounging and trying to put people in places they’re not supposed to be because of the teams we’ve played beforehand. It puts you behind, and it’s hard to get back in front.”

So far this season, PCA (1-2) is already playing from behind. In its first two games, against MHSAA Class 3A opponent St. Andrew’s and MAIS Class AAA foe Central Hinds, it has been outscored 78-13. Its one chance to play another Class AA team was nixed when Riverdale forfeited.

The bigger opponents have had a size and depth advantage, which has been compounded by PCA’s lack of experience. Only about a half-dozen players on the roster are upper classmen. There are only two seniors.

“We have mostly 10th graders starting on defense, and they’ve just got to learn. Unfortunately, they’re learning as they go. We’re going to try to instill some knowledge into them and try to help them and see if we can speed that process up,” Lynch said. “We’re getting better. We’re just so young and inexperienced that we’re kind of learning on the go, and unfortunately we’re learning against schools that are twice our size.”

The Eagles’ own mistakes have also hurt them. An early fumble last week against Central Hinds led to a touchdown, and a bad punt snap resulted in a safety. PCA was penalized 12 times for 210 yards.

In the season opener against St. Andrew’s, they threw an interception on the first series that was returned for a touchdown.

Playing from behind in both games has only reduced the already slim margin for error, Lynch said, and led to more mistakes as the Eagles tried to press in an effort to catch up.

“You’re outsized already and outmanned already. We still execute fine against that. It’s just when you make a mental mistake or have a turnover, it takes the wind out of you,” Lynch said. “If we can stay in a game until the fourth quarter, we have a chance. We have a talented, athletic team. We’re just not sustaining ourselves until the fourth quarter, and it’s a lot of mental mistakes. But they’ll get better.”

Hillcrest might not give the Eagles much room to breathe. The Cougars are 2-1 and have a dozen more players on the roster than PCA.

The good news for the Eagles is that its last six opponents are all Class AA schools, beginning with next week’s District 5-AA opener at Trinity. Lynch is hopeful those games will lead to some success. In the meantime, he’s just looking for the Eagles to keep their chins up and weather the storm.

“We’ve taken a couple on the chin, but we haven’t quit. We’ve kept fighting. They’ve kept showing up and wanting to learn. So we’ll get there. We’ll get some games against teams more our size and our caliber, and we’ll be fine,” Lynch said. “We need a big-time motivation boost. We need to get into a game and be competitive, and regardless of whether we win or not compete to the end and be right there. I think that would go a long way for them and give them the confidence back that they need.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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