PCA-St. Al football rivalry was born in 2017

Published 8:05 am Thursday, December 28, 2017

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series counting down the top five sports stories in Warren County in 2017.

It was a game decades in the making. Players, fans and alumni of both schools talked trash, speculated on the outcome and engaged in debates about who would win a football game between Porter’s Chapel Academy and St. Aloysius.

Finally, on Sept. 15, the matter was decided — for the moment.

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PCA and St. Al, Warren County’s two private schools, met for the first time ever on the football field to kick off what should become a perennial rivalry. St. Al won 39-25 as hundreds of fans ringed PCA’s Eagles Field in a festival of football, fun and friendship.

The birth of the rivalry is the No. 4 sports story in Warren County in 2017.

“I think this is probably the most hyped I have ever been. No doubt. It shouldn’t be, but it is. I know I’ve wanted this game since I was 13 because I know all the people that have come before us have wanted a chance at them, and we’ve got the chance,” Porter’s Chapel senior running back Glenn Alan Kittrell said in the days leading up to the game.

Up until 2015, St. Al was a member of the Mississippi High School Activities Association and PCA a member of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools. Teams in the two associations weren’t allowed to play each other until the mid-2000s, and then scheduling difficulties kept it from happening once that barrier was lowered.

The teams became regular opponents in all other sports, but St. Al typically had just one or two non-region playing dates on its football schedule and opted to fill those with an existing Catholic school rival rather than take on a new one.

Meanwhile, the fortunes of the two teams ebbed and flowed. Porter’s Chapel reached the state semifinals three times in four years in the late 2000s and then dropped off just as St. Al was turning into a power in the early part of this decade. St. Al’s run included two state semifinal appearances and one in the MHSAA Class 1A championship game.

With both schools being similar in size but having different skill levels and competition, fans and players alike often compared their teams to each other. After St. Al left the MHSAA in 2015 to join the MAIS, it was almost inevitable that the schedule would shift and allow them to finally settle it on the field.

The teams played in a preseason scrimmage in 2016, but this was the first time they’d met in a game that counted.

“It’s big being the first time ever that Porter’s Chapel and St. Al have played. It’s a big rivalry game. I know the most important game is the next game but, really, we’ve been looking at this game all summer,” PCA lineman McKinley Skipper said before the game.

If the annual Vicksburg vs. Warren Central game is touted as the Warren County Super Bowl, then Porter’s Chapel vs. St. Aloysius lived up to the hype as a worthy companion. Aided by a scheduling quirk that made it the only game in town on Sept. 15 — Vicksburg was on the road and Warren Central had an open date — a large crowd gathered beforehand to tailgate and party.

The festive atmosphere livened up a game that turned into a bit of a dud. St. Al forced four turnovers, two of which it returned for touchdowns, and held PCA to 209 yards of total offense in its victory. Ketrez Brown ran for 118 yards and returned an interception for a backbreaking touchdown on the final play of the first half to give the Flashes a 39-12 lead.

No matter how things played out on the field, however, the simple fact that the two teams were finally playing was a highlight of the season. They’re scheduled to meet again in September 2018 at St. Al’s Balzli Field as the mentions of first-time meetings give way to talk of an annual tradition.

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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