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Flashes ride big first half to win over PCA

A festive atmosphere surrounded Eagles Field on Friday evening. Fans started arriving 90 minutes before kickoff to make sure they got a seat for the first-ever regular-season football game between Porter’s Chapel Academy and St. Aloysius. Some tailgated, and most tingled in anticipation.

When it was over a couple of hours later, however, only the purple-clad fans lining the end zone and the visitor’s side fence were still celebrating.

St. Al forced four turnovers, two of which it returned for touchdowns, held PCA to 209 yards of total offense, and fended off a late comeback bid to win 39-25 in the matchup of Warren County’s two private schools.

St. Al (1-4, 1-1 District 3-AAA) ended a four-game losing streak to start the season as well.

“For the first game to win, it’s great because we’ve been working hard in practice. We put in the work every day, and we came here tonight and took care of business like the coaches asked,” said St. Al’s Ketrez Brown, who rushed for 118 yards on 13 carries and also returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first half. “It’s a great feeling. I love it. It always feels better to win than to lose.”

For Porter’s Chapel, the loss was a bitter disappointment in a game its fans, coaches and players had been looking forward to for years.

Carter White rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown for the Eagles (2-3, 1-2), but they couldn’t overcome their self-inflicted wounds.

St. Al bookended the first half with a fumble return for a touchdown on the first series of the game and Brown’s pick-six on the last, turned another interception into a quick touchdown, and committed a crucial offsides penalty on a fourth down to keep another scoring drive alive.

In all, the Eagles gave up four touchdowns in the second quarter and trailed 39-12 at halftime. Three of St. Al’s touchdowns came in the last three minutes.

“We just made too many mistakes at the beginning of the game,” PCA coach Blake Purvis said. “We spotted them 14 points in the first half off of offensive turnovers. Defensive penalties kept another drive alive that they got seven off of, and we’re just way down at halftime. But we made some adjustments, our guys kept fighting, and we shut them out in the second half and come back and put ourselves in a position to make it a game.”

The backbreaker was Brown’s interception. PCA was trailing 32-12 at the time, but took advantage of a muffed punt to get the ball back deep in St. Al territory with a minute left in the half.

Tyrese Craft took a swing pass and fought for a 15-yard gain on third-and-10 to move the ball to the St. Al 18 with 16 seconds to go. Then Brown intercepted Tristan Pickering’s pass to the right side, got through the first wave of players and to the sideline. He outran Pickering, the last PCA player with a shot, to the boundary and went 85 yards untouched for the score.

Instead of possibly going into halftime down only two scores, the Eagles suddenly found themselves down by four.

“I think that was the one that let them know this was our game and we came here to take it,” St. Al coach Michael Fields said.

St. Al’s first-half total of 39 points nearly matched its output of 41 points in its first four games combined. The Flashes eased off the gas in the second half, however — they did not throw a pass in the last two quarters after quarterback Antonio Thompson had gone 8-of-14 for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the first half — and opened the door just enough for PCA to make things interesting for a moment.

Pickering ran for a 9-yard touchdown with 7:02 left in the fourth quarter to make it 39-18, and then the Eagles recovered an onside kick. White capped off a 10-play drive with a 10-yard TD run with 3:11 left and Jagger Weekly added the PAT to trim it to 39-25.

The Eagles tried another onside kick and nearly got it. It bounced off of two St. Al players and one from PCA before the Flashes fell on it at the 34-yard line. PCA did get a quick three-and-out and the ball back with 1:58 to go, but Pickering threw his third interception of the game to finally ice it with a minute left.

Ryan Theriot hauled in the game-clinching interception. He also caught a 34-yard touchdown pass in the first half.

“I’m proud of the way our guys fight. They didn’t quit. The defense kept playing and getting us three-and-outs. The offense made adjustments and they found a way to move the ball. I can’t be upset about that,” Purvis said. “Our guys came out with a lot of pride in the second half and they just continued to fight. I’m proud to coach a group that never gives up. As long as they fight and they never give up, we’ve got a chance in any game.”

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 sports reporters in the paper's 137-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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