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WCCA continues playoff run

Wilkinson County Christian Academy’s Kaleb Sterling runs the ball past Heidelberg Academy’s Darion Milsap Friday during the second round of the MAIS Class A South State playoffs. WCCA defeated Heidelberg 30-0. Sterling rushed for 186 yards in the contest. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

WOODVILLE — Kaleb Sterling burst through a giant hole in the Heidelberg Academy defense, glanced to his left, then his right and took off toward the end zone.

Eighty-eight yards later, the senior running back stood in the end zone after scoring a touchdown that put his Wilkinson County Christian Academy football team up 29-0.

The play was executed to perfection, and Sterling went nearly the length of the field untouched.

“I just saw open field and looked to see if anyone was coming around me,” Sterling said. “Then all I had to do was keep running.”

The Rams made several plays look easy Friday night in their 30-0 victory over Heidelberg — much easier than in the two teams’ regular season contest that saw WCCA slip by 16-6.

Rams head coach David Wright credited the big win to a new mentality in the second matchup.

“It’s playoff time,” Wright said. “This team really has what it takes to get up and play good teams, prepare, focus and execute.”

A host of WCCA defenders tackle Heidelberg Academy’s Shawdarian Porter Friday. The Rams defense held the Rebels to just 111 yards. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

WCCA took control early and made a ton of big plays — despite making plenty of mistakes — to cruise to the victory.

“I’m excited I get to watch it on the game film. That’s going to be fun,” Wright said. “We started out getting interceptions and tipped balls and had the relentless running of Kaleb Sterling.”

Sterling finished the game with 186 yards on nine carries on offense and also had a 36-yard interception for a touchdown.

“It’s really about my line blocking downfield,” Sterling said about his offensive performance. “Really all I had to do is run to open field.”

Once again the Rams’ defense dominated the Rebels. WCCA held Heidelberg to 111 total yards, and the visitors really only threatened to score twice. One drive ended with an interception by WCCA’s L.J. Jackson in the end zone, and the other was a four-and-out that started inside the Rams’ red zone after WCCA committed one of its four turnovers.

The Rams defense also scored the first points of the game after Heidelberg stopped WCCA on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

The ensuing play was an inside run by the Rebels’ Daniel Hickson, and WCCA’s Lane Ivy and Jamal Vessell met him in the backfield and tackled him for a safety.

WCCA also capitalized on the good field position the safety gave it by driving 58 yards and scoring on a 1-yard run by Sterling. Quarterback Taylor Prevost added the extra point, and the Rams led 9-0 after the first quarter.

Prevost resumed his quarterbacking duties in the second quarter and connected with Dra Tolliver on a 25-yard touchdown strike. His kick gave WCCA a 16-0 lead with 11:52 to go in the first half.

WCCA’s Dra Tolliver catches a touchdown pass from quarterback Taylor Prevost over Heidelberg Academy’s Darius McDonald Friday. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

Heidelberg put its best drive of the game together on the ensuing possession and advanced down to the WCCA 6-yard line before Jackson intercepted a third-down pass to end the scoring threat.

Both teams traded possessions until late in the half when Heidelberg was attempting to drive down to get a score before halftime. Instead, Sterling picked off an errant pass by the Rebels’ Mark Milsap and took it 36 yards to give WCCA a 23-0 lead at the break.

Senior Quincy Thompson said he knew that play sealed the Rams’ trip to the South State final next week.

“It feels great going to South State,” he said. “I knew we had it after the second quarter.”

The game was sloppy at times, physical throughout and dirty on occasion, but Thompson said he and the other Rams seniors tried to keep the team composed.

“It was really hard, but we got our heads together,” he said.

Sterling’s 88-yard run was the final score of the game and capped off a huge night on the ground for the Rams. WCCA rushed for 297 yards and amassed 380 total yards.

Prevost finished 4-of-9 passing for 83 yards and a touchdown. Austin Goodfellow also had a good night running the ball with 63 yards on 10 carries.

WCCA moves on to the South State final, and Prevost said it is the seniors’ jobs to keep the team focused.

“This was a really good push to keep us motivated,” he said. “Now we have to work this week to pump everybody up.”

WCCA (11-1) will face Newton County Academy in the South State final.