2023 All-County Football: PCA’s success was no surprise to Coach of the Year Blake Purvis

Published 4:00 am Friday, December 22, 2023

Porter’s Chapel Academy’s ascension from also-ran to record-shattering state championship contender caught a lot of football fans in Mississippi off guard.

Not Blake Purvis, though. PCA’s head coach saw it coming a mile away.

Purvis’ Eagles were loaded with talent and experience. They took the steps necessary to learn how to win. So when they broke through with a 12-1 record, district championship, and a trip to the MAIS Class 2A semifinals, Purvis was thrilled but hardly surprised.

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“It was a fun year. It was very fulfilling all year long, but it was no shock,” Purvis said. “This was a group that I’ve had since the seventh grade. When they came in we knew that they could be something special if we just stuck to the plan and that’s what’s happened over the last three, four years plus. They’ve improved year after year after year, and this year really cranked it up and took it to where they should have.”

In another less-than-shocking twist, PCA’s success has made Purvis the 2023 Vicksburg Post football Coach of the Year.
Purvis, who is in his eighth season at PCA, is the first coach from the school to earn The Post’s award since Randy Wright in 2007.

Purvis credited his staff — assistants Chris Simms, Daniel Slayton, Billy White, Travis Potter, Joe Pecanty and his father Darrell and brother Wesley Purvis — with helping turn PCA’s football fortunes around. He also thanked the school’s administration, head of school Chris Williams, and his family for their support.

Purvis and his wife Shelby have a young daughter named Leighton, and the couple added a son, Elliott, earlier this year.

“They make a lot of sacrifices to let me do what we do on Friday night,” Purvis said of his family.

Purvis also thanked his family and school supporters for sticking with him through some difficult times. He was hired in 2016, and the Eagles only won a total of 13 games in his first five seasons.

At the time, PCA was caught in a no man’s land in the MAIS’ classification structure. They were one of the smallest schools in the smallest 11-man classification, after a number of schools their size switched to 8-man football.

After bottoming out by going 3-17 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, PCA finally made the same switch.

“We just needed to be in a place where we could compete,” Purvis said.

The MAIS’ 8-man division offered that opportunity, and PCA immediately took advantage of it. They reached the playoffs in 2021, their first full season in 8-man, to end a six-year drought. In 2022 they won a playoff game for the first time since 2008, and this year punched through to a new level.

The Eagles won their first 12 games before losing to eventual Class 2A champion DeSoto School in the semifinals.

“I always thought it was there, and then once you get on the field you see things,” Purvis said. “I really think the Prentiss game (a 55-8 victory), when we rolled out of Week 3 sitting where we were sitting, coming off a dominant performance on the road, and really playing midseason football early on, started to show that we can really do this. We can be more than eight or nine wins. We can make a go at this thing.”

Along the way they won the program’s first district championship since 2008 and shattered a half-dozen school records.

The 614 points the Eagles scored were a school record. Quarterback John Wyatt Massey set school and county records for touchdown passes in a season (40), game (7) and career (53). Receiver Thomas Azlin broke the school record for touchdown receptions in a season, with 16, and Ty Mack was right behind with 14. Junior running back Jase Jung also set a new school record with 25 rushing touchdowns.

Massey, Azlin and Jung were all three- or four-year varsity starters. Mack is in his second season. Having seen them grow and mature, especially in this past offseason, was a big reason Purvis was more confident than shocked at the team’s success.

“This is where we expected this group to be — district champions, and to make a playoff push, and they bought in early. Really, years ago when they came here. They worked for this opportunity,” Purvis said.

Purvis added that seeing his players fulfill their potential, especially after so many difficult years, was satisfying.

“To see all that time that they’ve put in come to fruition over the years with a championship and a big playoff push, and one of the best seasons in school history, and all the records they did was very rewarding to be a part of,” he said.

Vicksburg Post Coaches of the Year
2023 – Blake Purvis, Porters Chapel
2022 – Todd McDaniel, Vicksburg
2021 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2020 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2019 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2018 – Michael Fields, St. Aloysius
2017 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2016 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2015 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2014 – BJ Smithhart, St. Aloysius
2013 – Tavares Johnson, Vicksburg
2012 – Josh Morgan, Warren Central
2011 – Alonzo Stevens, Vicksburg
2010 – Todd Montgomery, Central Hinds
2009 – Curtis Brewer, Warren Central
2008 – BJ Smithhart, St. Aloysius
2007 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2006 – Jim Taylor, St. Aloysius
2005 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2004 – Randy Wright, Porters Chapel
2003 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
2002 – Jim Taylor, St. Aloysius
2001 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
2000 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1999 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1998 – J.J. Plummer, Porters Chapel
1997 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1996 – Bubba Booth, St. Aloysius
1995 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1994 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1993 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1992 – Bubba Booth, St. Aloysius
1991 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1990 – James Knox, Vicksburg
1989 – James Knox, Vicksburg
1988 – Robert Morgan, Warren Central
1987 – Joe Edwards, St. Aloysius

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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