Porter’s Chapel’s Azlin finding the end zone at a record-setting pace

Published 2:33 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

All Thomas Azlin does is catch touchdowns.

Actually, he does a lot more than that. But when he catches the ball, it’s all he does.

Azlin, a senior tight end for Porter’s Chapel Academy’s football team, has 10 receptions this season and nine touchdowns. He’s also caught a pair of two-point conversion passes, making his season a model of offensive efficiency so far.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Azlin said it’s been the result of a number of factors, from good teammates to a good scheme that is both taking advantage of his talents and giving him an opportunity to use them.

“It helps with how good our run game has been, that they’re looking for the run most of the time. We slip that in and they don’t account for the tight end a lot of times,” Azlin said. “Then a lot of times when it’s happened at wide receiver we have trips and I’m out there by myself. Most of the time the play call is to the trips side and (quarterback John Wyatt Massey) sees I’m lined up with the weaker guy and he throws a vertical to me. Most of the time it’s a quarterback read. He’s done a good job.”

PCA head coach Blake Purvis went a step further, and said the way Azlin has played when he isn’t catching the ball helps him get open when he is.

Azlin is often the lead blocker on PCA’s running plays, so the better he blocks the more opponents have to respect the run. That, in turn, allows Azlin to slip free when it’s time to pass. It’s a chain reaction that often leads to the end zone.

“What he’s doing as a blocker at tight end is why he’s as open as he is in the scheme that we run. People have to come downhill because we’re blocking so well. When you do that, it’s easy to slip behind them,” Purvis said. “Not just the pass-catching abilities and the route running, he’s having to play all phases of the game and play them at a high level. That’s, in turn, helping him get open as much as he is.”

Azlin is only averaging two receptions per game, but each catch is going for about 30 yards. He has 301 yards on his 10 receptions, with the shortest an 11-yard touchdown vs. Delta Academy.

His first nine catches of the season, however, all ended with him crossing the goal line. It wasn’t until he hauled in a 43-yard reception and was tackled at the 2-yard line in a 44-6 win over Humphreys Academy last week that he didn’t score. Azlin did have a 50-yard touchdown on his first catch in that game.

“Most everything’s been within 40 yards, and the only thing we threw that wasn’t I got caught at the 2-yard line,” Azlin said with a laugh. “It wasn’t a bad pass. It was slightly underthrown and didn’t have the speed to get there on that one.”

While he’s making his biggest mark on offense, Azlin has also been one of PCA’s best defenders. Playing linebacker, he has 26 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks and two fumble recoveries so far.

Azlin’s performance on both sides of the ball has been a driving force in the Eagles’ 5-0 start — the program’s best since 2008. They go for six in a row this Friday at 7 p.m., when they play Park Place Christian Academy for both homecoming and their MAIS District 3-2A opener.

“It’s very important to go ahead and get a win, and start off the district 1-0. It’d be huge, and I feel like we’ve got a good chance to do it,” Azlin said. “We’ve just got to come out like we did against Riverdale (a 26-18 overtime win on Sept. 1) and the rest of the teams we’ve played — come out strong and get ready for the week.”

Azlin’s performance has him chasing records. PCA’s school record for receiving touchdowns in a season is 15, by Cole Smith in 2006. He’s also got 16 career touchdowns, which is eight short of Smith’s mark set from 2004-06.

“I looked at all the stats and I knew I could definitely get up there in at least the bottom (of the list) and work myself up to the top hopefully. That’d be really cool to see my name in the record book,” Azlin said. “John Wyatt has really been throwing good passes this year. It’s making me look good because he’s been on the money.”

Smith set his record when the Eagles played 11-man football and Azlin is doing it in the eight-man game, where big plays are a bit easier to come by. He’s not going to let that difference diminish the accomplishment, though.

“It’s a little bit easier to score in eight-man, but it’s still a big accomplishment,” he said.

His coach agreed.

“It’s not like we’re playing with 11 and they’re playing with eight. We’re both playing with eight,” Purvis said.

Eight or 11 is not the number Azlin is dialed in on right now. It’s six, as in the number of points he scores when he catches the football and the number of wins the Eagles are going for this week.

“I’m glad I’ve been able to play both (offense and defense) this year and do good on both sides,” Azlin said. “It’s been really fun.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Clinton Christian at St. Aloysius (Radio: 101.3 FM)
Brandon at Warren Central (Radio: 105.5 FM)
Vicksburg at Terry (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Park Place at Porter’s Chapel (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Tallulah Academy at Wilkinson County Christian
Humphreys Academy at Sharkey-Issaquena
Canton Academy at Central Hinds
Port Gibson at Raymond
Lafayette Renaissance Charter at Madison Parish

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.

email author More by Ernest