Porter’s Chapel looking to linemen as strength of revamped roster

Published 1:00 pm Tuesday, July 9, 2024

During a workout in June, Porter’s Chapel Academy’s football team tried its hand at sumo wrestling.

The drill, designed to help players learn to use leverage to move opponents out of the way, soon turned into a tournament and drew a crowd as it neared the end. It was a showcase of strength, as well as what figures to be the strength of the team.

The Eagles have all three of their starting linemen returning, but not a lot of skill position players.

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“We’re in a lot different position than we’ve been in, in a long time. We’ve always had the skill guys, even back in 11-man, and we just didn’t have the linemen,” PCA coach Blake Purvis said. “Right now we’ve got more linemen-type guys than we do skill guys. That’s not a bad thing. It’d just be nice to have an abundance of both at the same time.”

PCA’s three linemen — Jackson Blackmon, Conley Johnston and Hunter Simms — helped the team rack up more than 4,000 yards of total offense and set the school record for points in a season in 2023. The Eagles won their first 12 games before losing to DeSoto School in the MAIS Class 2A semifinals.

Most of the key skill players such as quarterback John Wyatt Massey, tight end Thomas Azlin and wide receiver/running back Ty Mack graduated, however. Massey threw 40 touchdown passes, 30 of which went to Mack and Azlin. In all, PCA lost six seniors and five starters to graduation.

“We’re looking for a whole new receiving corps and record-breaking quarterback, too. Those are big holes to fill,” Purvis said.

Running back Jase Jung, who rushed for 1,974 yards and 25 touchdowns, will be back this season. The reshuffled personnel has led Purvis to re-examine the Eagles’ offensive approach without completely throwing out what’s worked well. Leaning on the linemen and Jung to form a strong running game is a key part of the plan.

“There are some different things we looked at. It’s no secret that when you return an offensive line like what we are and a running back like that, that our running game is what we’re going to build around,” Purvis said. “But our running game was successful last year because our pass game was where it was. We’re going to try to get our passing game back up to a level that suits us to help our run game, but there are some different things we’re looking at to fit our personnel better.”

PCA finished the first half of its summer schedule with a 5-on-5 scrimmage at Deer Creek and some camps at various colleges. They took off the week of July 4 for an MAIS-mandated dead week, and will ease up to the official start of practice on July 29.

The Eagles will play a controlled scrimmage against Briarfield Academy on Aug. 2 or 3, then have an early start to the season. The opener is Aug. 16 at home vs. River Oaks as part of the MAIS’ “Week Zero.”

PCA is coming off its best season in 15 years, while also trying to continue an upward trend. Last year marked their third consecutive playoff appearance, the first time the program has accomplished that feat since making it six years in a row from 2004-09.

Purvis believes the team is in a position to do it as younger players begin their ascent to the varsity level.

“Over the last three, four years we’ve gotten to a class we can compete in and we’ve built the thing up, and created a level of expectation,” Purvis said. “I think we’re seeing some of that. We’re seeing younger guys step in and working and progressing this summer like we’ve seen with that group the last two or three years.”

All games start at 7 p.m.
Aug. 16 — River Oaks
Aug. 23 — at Delta Academy
Aug. 30 — Prentiss Christian
Sept. 6 — at Riverdale
Sept. 13 — Humphreys Academy
Sept. 20 — *at Park Place
Sept. 27 — at Tensas Academy
Oct. 4 — *Hillcrest Christian
Oct. 11 — Open date
Oct. 18 — at Wilkinson County Christian
Oct. 25 — *Prairie View
*MAIS District 3-2A games

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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