Rams, Saints preparing for grudge match

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The Friday night lights don’t come more blinding than Trinity Episcopal’s Pit come kickoff at 7 p.m.

The pageantry that is high school football &045; innocence, red and black screaming on one side with maroon and white echoing the holler on the other, rivalries that lay friendships aside for several tenuous hours and most of all a district championship hanging in the balance &045; will be in all its glory Friday.

Both the Saints (9-0, 4-0 MPSA district 7-A) and Wilkinson County Christian Academy (6-3, 4-0 7-A) are undefeated in district play.

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Similar to last season, the winner will claim a title and remain at home for the first round of the Mississippi Private School Association Class A playoffs that begin Halloween night.

&uot;We’ve beaten them the last two years, but they continue to get a little bit better, stronger and faster every year it seems,&uot; Trinity defensive tackle Tres Atkins said.

Whereas the No. 1 Saints have been able to overwhelm their 7-A opponents up to this juncture by cramming points down foes’ throats, the belief is things will not be quite as laid back against WCCA.

In its four 7-A victories, Trinity has not allowed a team to score. But with the horsepower of Ram backs Duston Dore and Travis Allen sharing the mail that shutout streak is in jeopardy.

&uot;All I know is they’ve got very good linebackers and we’ll go from there,&uot; said Dore of the homestanding Saints. &uot;We’ve got to run hard when we get the ball and make plays.&uot;

On a saturated Woodville night last year, both teams turned the ball over three times, but it was the Saints who captured the 14-7 victory and another 7-A crown.

Trinity head coach David King believes the victor this year will again depend on the team that limits its miscues and penalties, an area of the game King’s court has been jesters at in 2003.

&uot;For all the good we’ve done this year, we’re still two-to-one on penalties to our opponents,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t want to give Woodville any extra opportunity to score.&uot;

And vice versa for Ram head honcho Paul Hayles, whose team was plagued by the fumble yips earlier in the season.

In particular, during late in the 21-14 loss to Class AA defending champ Oak Forest, a team Trinity overcame in double overtime, 20-14.

It’s a facet of the game Hayles trusts WCCA has beaten with the season’s progression and repetition with ball handling drills in practice.

&uot;Any team is apt for turnovers,&uot; he said. &uot;We just have to limit them any way we can.&uot;

Such familiarity in this rivalry, not only with the squads, but with Hayles and King, who was an assistant to Hayles at Trinity before taking over in 1998 after Hayles left for Woodville.

The intimate nature between all parties involved gives legs to wonder whether either coach is pondering pulling out all the stops in a game that has more repercussions than any other regular season contest.

&uot;You always keep tricks up your sleeve in a big time situation, and I guess it doesn’t get any bigger than this,&uot; King said. But &uot;trick plays hardly ever win games. When it’s all said and done, it’s a cliche, but tackling and blocking is what wins it for you.&uot;

More reason to believe this game will lie deep in the trenches with the filthy ones than perhaps either team has participated in this season.

Although, the Rams can draw on their Oct. 25 home win over Class AA Columbia, 32-29, where Dore ran for 123 yards behind a line that opened up gaping holes for him on nine carries.

&uot;We’ve been fortunate because in week eight we had a tough test from Columbia, and in week nine we secured a playoff position&uot; against Amite School Center, Hayles said.