Rams ride historic run to state title gamePublished 12:01am Sunday, November 18, 2012
Where were you in late fall 1988?
I was a bit past one, still being spoon-fed by my parents and clinging to my stuffed dinosaur named Hippo, tightly.
More than a thousand miles away from my Neptune, N.J., home, Wilkinson County Christian Academy was competing for a state championship. Twenty-four years later, I’m feeding myself, and the Rams are back gunning for the ultimate prize.
(I still have Hippo, in case you’re wondering.)
With all the hoopla surrounding the Rams after Friday night’s big win against Newton Academy, last year’s 11-2 season almost seems like a distant memory for WCCA.
That’s not to diminish what then-Rams head coach Ray McDaniel and the 2012 senior class accomplished before falling to Riverfield Academy in the second round of the playoffs.
With a South State title in hand, though, WCCA proved that last year was not an outlier for the football program. Rather, it was a building block to create a new standard with which the Rams will measure themselves in the near future.
And there is plenty of credit to go around for this year’s team making it to the MAIS Class A state championship game in Jackson.
First and foremost, the credit belongs to the athletes. After its first winning season in years last fall, the returning players decided they weren’t going to be satisfied with just an 11-win season and a second-round postseason exit. Despite a head coaching change from McDaniel to David Wright, the players put in the time this past summer — and the hard work showed up on the field all season.
Secondly, major props belong to the WCCA administration for finding a head coach like Wright who was able to build upon the success McDaniel left behind. The decision-makers could have easily been satisfied with the 2011 season and become complacent, not doing their due diligence and choosing to hire the best possible coach. That likely would have meant another string of losing seasons.
Instead, the administration found Wright, who came to Woodville all the way from Georgia and implemented what Rams quarterback Taylor Prevost called the worst summer workouts he’s ever been through. The intense summer conditioning put the Rams in excellent shape to, no pun intended, ram their way through MAIS Class A South State.
And “ram” is certainly an appropriate word to describe what WCCA did to teams this fall. The Rams are currently averaging 35 points per game, while only yielding 8.7. If you remove WCCA’s lone lost to Class AA Centreville, the Rams are only giving up 7.2 points per game.
I usually like to give first-year head coaches a mulligan. It’s difficult for players who are used to a previous coach’s system to adjust in less than a year. Nick Saban, whom many consider the best coach in college football, went just 7-6 in his first year at Alabama and 8-4 at LSU. Those losses included some rather embarrassing defeats to Louisiana-Monroe and UAB, respectively.
But the Rams didn’t miss a beat under Wright, and they actually did more than last year’s team did. For that, he and his staff deserve a lot of accolades.
Wilkinson County will face a stout Tri-County Academy team in Jackson this week for the state title. Adams County Christian School assistant coach Christopher McGraw, a WCCA alumnus who was on-hand Friday, said the Rebels will bring an enormous offensive line for the Rams to contend with. But after tallying just one loss to a team that went undefeated in the regular season of Class AA, I doubt the Rams consider themselves underdogs.
Michael Kerekes is the sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.