Porter’s Chapel plays DeSoto for spot in MAIS Class 2A championship game

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Porter’s Chapel Academy head coach Blake Purvis said his team’s biggest key to success this week is to do the same thing it’s done all season — treat each week as one game, work hard, and don’t look down the road.

If only it were that simple.

Porter’s Chapel (12-0) will go on the road to West Helena, Arkansas, on Friday night to play DeSoto School (11-0) in the MAIS Class 2A semifinals. The first state championship game appearance in school history is on the line for the Eagles, and the chance to turn one of the best seasons in school history into the single best.

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“It’s an opportunity to do something for the first time ever,” Purvis said. “This’ll be the fourth time we’ve been there. Breaking through and being the first team to ever reach that next step is something really big for these guys and the school.”

PCA has reached the semifinals three other times, in 2005, 2006 and 2008, but lost each time. Like the 2005 and 2008 teams, the 2023 squad has gotten to this point without losing a game.

This year’s Eagles have set a half-dozen school records, including most points in a season with 600, and only had two games decided by less than 28 points.

Purvis, though, said the team’s talent is matched by intangibles that have pushed them to new heights. Their 12 wins this season are one more than they had the past two years combined.

“They’re an unbelievable group. I think that’s what we’ve got to live on this week,” Purvis said. “They’ve been unselfish all year long, and they’ve got to continue to do that and not worry about the records and the history books until it’s over with. Take this game as the next one and the most important one, and handle the task at hand. Prepare for it and go out and give it your best shot.”

Focusing on the task at hand is wise strategy considering their opponent. DeSoto School won the Class 1A championship in 2021, got back to the title game in 2022, and is itself having another great season. DeSoto and PCA are the only undefeated teams in either of the MAIS’ rwo eight-man classifications.

Purvis said the Thunderbirds also use an offensive set that his team has not seen a lot of this season, and it could give the Eagles some problems.

“They’re mostly a five-man line. They’re not an I-backfield, but a five-man line with a wingback and a running back. They run a lot of traps and counters and stuff like that,” Purvis said. “It’s a little bit harder to defend because you’ve got an extra gap with the extra lineman that you have to defend.”

DeSoto will also have the benefit of homefield advantage. Vicksburg to West Helena is a 3 1/2-hour bus ride, the longest PCA has had to take this season.

Purvis noted, however, that his veteran-laden team — there are 11 juniors and seniors among the 13 varsity players — has taken long trips before and won, so he was planning to call back on that experience to negate the effects of travel.

“Playing at home is always a benefit. But this group has played some long road trips. We’ve gone to Gulfport, we’ve gone to Bogalusa and came out of both of those with a win the last couple years. So they know how to travel. They know how to prepare for a road trip,” Purvis said. “If they take the experience that they have going on the road, and treat it like any other Friday, when we show up we’ll have our same routine and warm up and get ready to go.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
MHSAA Playoffs
Vicksburg at Grenada (Radio: 107.7 FM)
Saltillo at Warren Central *Radio: 105.5 FM)
MAIS Playoffs
Porter’s Chapel at DeSoto School (Radio: 104.5 FM)
Briarfield at Sharkey-Issaquena Academy

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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