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PCA gets back to work against Centreville Academy

The halftime break of Porter’s Chapel Academy’s football season is over, and it’s time to get back to work.

After a rare midseason bye week, the Eagles return to the field Friday night at home against Centreville Academy. It’s the beginning of a five-week closing stretch to the season that includes three district games, a road trip to New Orleans, and even the possibility of a playoff berth despite a 1-4 start.

“The first half was obviously rough. Mixing the 8-man games in broke a rhythm and our reps in practice and it showed, especially in that CHEF game,” PCA Blake Purvis said, referring to a 28-7 loss to Baton Rouge home school team CHEF in the Eagles’ last outing on Sept. 13. “If we correct our fundamentals and minimize our mistakes, we can find success down the stretch. But we’re going to have to stay healthy and play a better brand of football.”

Last week’s open date was PCA’s first since Week 3 of the 2012 season, and came at a good time. Not only did it give the Eagles a chance to regroup after a difficult first month, it provided an opportunity to fill a big hole in the lineup.

Starting quarterback Luke Yocum broke his collarbone against CHEF and is out for four to six weeks — basically the rest of the season. Braden Kapp and John Michael Wilkerson will replace him, but neither has played quarterback before. Having an extra week to get some practice reps, Purvis said, should help them get acclimated to the position.

“It’s a huge loss. (Yocum) has been playing quarterback the last three years, and two as a full-time starter,” Purvis said. “It does create a complete shuffle. You fill one hole and open another one. Guys are stepping up and assuming larger roles. We got good reps during the bye week to help move us forward.”

From a scheduling standpoint, the second half of PCA’s season appears much more difficult than the first. District 3-4A opponents Greenville Christian and Greenville-St. Joe have a combined 8-2 record — one of the losses was when they played each other — and Centreville (2-3) played for the MAIS Class AAA championship last season.

Even so, PCA is not out of the playoff picture. Twelve of the 17 teams in Class 3A qualify for the playoffs, and 10 currently have losing records. Getting past Greenville-St. Joe — which has two players committed to Power 5 conference college football programs and is currently ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press MAIS poll — to win the district title will be a tall order, but PCA could earn a wild card berth with a couple of wins.

One of the teams they’ll need to beat is Centreville Academy, which has gotten off to a slow start after finishing as the runner-up to Greenville-St. Joseph in Class AA last season. Purvis said, however, that the Tigers are more the victims of a difficult early schedule than a down year.

“They’re not struggling,” Purvis said with a laugh. “They’re 2-3, but they lost to a 5-0 Bowling Green team, a 3-2 Silliman team and a 4-1 Brookhaven (Academy) team. Their losses aren’t to any slouches. Coach (Bill) Hurst hasn’t won 400 games by playing bad football. They’re going to do what they’ve been doing for 40 years.”

Hurst is Mississippi’s all-time winningest high school football coach, with 402 victories in 41 seasons at Centreville. He has led the Tigers to nine state championships, the last in 2014, and they’ve only had one losing season since 2005.

Two of Hurst’s wins came against Purvis when the latter was coaching at Brookhaven Academy in 2014 and 2015. Even though he’s yet to add to Hurst’s loss total, Purvis said he enjoys the challenge of matching wits with a coaching legend.

“It’s fun. It’s a welcome challenge. This will be the third time I’ve faced Coach Hurst and I have a lot of respect for him and his team,” Purvis said. “His guys are always ready to play. You have to beat them. They won’t beat themselves. Any victory against them is a well-earned one.”

FRIDAY’S AREA GAMES
All games start at 7 p.m.

Centreville Academy at PCA
Copiah Academy at St. Aloysius
Warren Central at Germantown
Provine at Vicksburg
Magee at Port Gibson
Madison Central at Clinton
Briarfield at Tallulah Academy
Sharkey-Issaquena at Rebul Academy
Central Hinds at Greenville-St. Joe
Madison Parish at General Trass

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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