Adams Christian, Trinity meet on gridiron tonight in first meeting since 1998

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Ryan Rachal has heard it all.

And not just this week &045; it’s been all summer. Everyone is talking about today’s Adams Christian-Trinity Episcopal matchup at the ACCS Jamboree and have been almost all summer long.

But it’s not a big deal, really. That’s the stuff high school rivalries are all about &045; especially when you pit a Class A school against a Class AAA school. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in front of what many are expecting to be a record crowd.

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&uot;It’s the talk of the town,&uot; said Rachal, the Saints’ starting quarterback. &uot;There’s not any other game in town. Every time I see somebody it’s brought up. The question is can we stop Luke Ogden.&uot;

The two teams will meet on the field for the first time since the 1998 ACCS Jamboree, which resulted in a 0-0 tie. It’s also the first time since then and maybe the first time since the late 1980s when there was a big rivalry game in Natchez.

Up until the late 1970s the city had three private schools and two public schools who would play each other. Trinity, AC and Thomas Jefferson would annually square off, but their games would pale in comparison to the annual North Natchez-South Natchez matchups.

Then TJ closed, North and South consolidated and AC and Trinity stopped playing each other &045; leaving a void of annual grudge matches that were common at one time.

&uot;What I felt like is Natchez doesn’t have a big game anymore,&uot; AC head coach Keith Walters said. &uot;You used to have North and South and Trinity and AC. I don’t know what went on in the past, and I don’t care. One of the first things when we got here was get with (Trinity), and I felt like there was a chance we could play. We couldn’t get a date because of the two-year (scheduling) contract, so we scheduled a jamboree.&uot;

Both schools acknowledge tonight’s bout isn’t a regulation game. The format will include two 12-minute quarters with the varsity with a junior varsity period scheduled in between the two.

No blitzing will be allowed, and there will be no kicking.

But just because it’s a jamboree doesn’t mean people are not taking interest. Actually, both sides are hoping the excitement doesn’t reach uncontrollable levels.

&uot;My first year as head coach was the last time we played AC,&uot; Trinity head coach David King said. &uot;We’ve been out of it for five years, and it’s good for the community. I think some of the parents were the problem. They’ve been the problem in this rivalry. I think if they will just calm down and behave themselves in the stands, we’ll be able to have a good night and continue this thing throughout time.&uot;

The game

If you look at the big picture, tonight’s game won’t show up in the standings. It won’t have a bearing on either team’s playoff chances. And it won’t be an actual football game with the no-kicking and no-blitzing rules.

Yeah, try telling that to the players.

&uot;We don’t really look at it like a jamboree,&uot; Trinity running back Gregory Ketchings said. &uot;The guys I’ve been talking to don’t really see it as a jamboree. We’re probably worried about it too much to be honest with you. I personally want to win this game more than anything &045; more than any other in my life.&uot;

Ogden, the Rebels’ huge tailback and college prospect, will be the focal point of Ketchings and the Saints’ defense. Only Ogden isn’t putting much stock into the whole excitement level of the renewed rivalry.

&uot;A bunch of people around town (are talking), but really all that game is for is to get us prepared for the first game of the season and for whoever they play next,&uot; Ogden said. &uot;All we’re trying to do is help them, and hopefully they’ll help us get ready, too.&uot;

The matchup should be interesting with the size of Ogden and the Rebels compared to the speed Trinity has. The Saints use a variety of alignments on offense and can give it to any of their three backs or pass to 6-2 Dudley Guice.

&uot;We’ve really downplayed it a lot,&uot; Walters said. &uot;I think Trinity has a good team and will really be a factor for the state championship. If we can get a little better, we might get into the playoffs ourselves.&uot;

The Rebels will rely on Ogden a great deal this year after not many people in District 2-AAA stopped him last year. But AC is also improving in other phases of the game, including defense, and are a notch better than the Saints in one significant department &045; depth.

&uot;I hear Luke Ogden is one of the best backs in the state,&uot; King said. &uot;We feel we’ve got some great players, but we’re comparing that to other single-A schools. We don’t know how we match up against triple-A talent yet.&uot;

The rivalry

If everything goes well tonight, the rivalry may become something more permanent. Right now the two schools have added each other to their schedules in baseball and basketball.

Like anything else, it’s all about money. Getting the two schools together will produce a large gate and concession sales to generate revenue without the cost of having to travel a great distance to play.

So for the two teams to play each other in Natchez instead of the Rebels traveling to Greenville or the Saints to Plain Dealing, La., is an absolute no-brainer.

&uot;To me, it’s good all the way around,&uot; AC booster club president Byrnsie Marks said. &uot;It saves the travel, and the money you make from your gate and concessions goes to your program. Going to Greenville didn’t make us anything. It costed us. Huntington was one of our bigger gates last year because it’s right here in the area. People will come if they have to drive 20 minutes and not two hours.&uot;

MPSA football schedules are made every two years with home dates alternating each year. While coaches are allowed to make their own schedules in other sports, MPSA officials schedule football games and allow each school to make three requests &045; all of which are not guaranteed.

So if things do go well, both schools can request a regular season game next year to go along with every other sport.

&uot;We’ll try to play in all sports,&uot; Walters said. &uot;If we’re going to play, we’ll play them all. We’ve got budgets to meet. It makes no sense not to do it. If traffic is bad, we’re 10 minutes apart.&uot;

But what was the best thing about those North-South matchups or the AC-Trinity or AC-TJ games back then? It’s a perfect chance to see who is the better team.

&uot;There’s a lot of stuff flying around, and throw all that stuff out the window,&uot; said Barr Brown, Trinity booster club president. &uot;Just let the kids play. A lot of people who say they don’t care about the outcome &045; yeah, they do.&uot;