Healthy Rebels open against Patriots

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Those Adams Christian Rebels are glad to be in the playoffs. And with the way the brackets are set up in MPSA Class AAA Division, who can blame them?

It’s a four-team field that begins Friday when the Rebels visit Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and it’s only the fourth time in school history for the Rebels to make the playoffs. After going 4-7 last year and 0-11 in 2001, getting into the postseason sure is an accomplishment.

But there’s one other thing.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;I don’t know if people realize this, but we’re two games away (from a state championship),&uot; ACCS head coach Keith Walters said of the four-team bracket. &uot;But when you get to the semis, you don’t expect to play anybody bad. It’s a two-game season, and everybody is 0-0 right now. We’re excited to be in. Now we’ll go out and play hard and see what happens.&uot;

It’s the Rebels and Patriots who are in one semifinal Friday with Lamar and Lee Academy of Clarksdale in the other semifinal. It’s the Division I bracket that’s got the traditional powers of MPSA &045; Hillcrest plays at Jackson Academy and Pillow is at Jackson Prep.

That’s not to say the Patriots are anything less to worry about. They’re a tough team and had a six-game winning streak snapped last week in a 21-6 loss to Jackson Academy, who got a huge night rushing the ball from former Adams Christian standout Benji Maher.

The Patriots finished the regular season at 9-2 and 4-2 in District 2-AAA with losses to Lamar and JA.

&uot;They’re very, very good,&uot; Walters said. &uot;They’re very athletic, and they have size and speed. I’ve been doing this 25 years as an assistant or a head coach, and I’ve never had a team play a perfect game. We’ve got to play as close to perfect game as we can. We can’t have the mental mistakes we made against Silliman. We’ve got to play as close to good as we can play. As long as we do that and compete with them, I think we’ll be OK.&uot;

Unfortunately for the Rebels, they’ll get a MRA team that’s got a little point to get across. It’s the start of the playoffs for a team that lost to Magnolia Heights in the state championship last season, and that lost to JA last week derailed a six-game winning streak that would have put them in the playoffs on a hot seven-game winning streak.

&uot;We have 23 lettermen returning from last year and 15 seniors this year coming back from last year,&uot; MRA head coach Skip Moore said. &uot;We got to the state finals last year and got beat, and usually when you do that it makes you a little hungry and you want to get back. I think our kids have really responded. We’re just looking forward to this week’s game and looking to get back in the mix.&uot;

The Rebels, though, come into the contest after having last week off as an opportunity heal some nagging injuries that surfaced toward the end of the season. Injuries figured into the Rebels’ six-game losing skid to end the regular season with some linemen being sidelined, but that may be a thing of the past right now.

Running back Luke Ogden, who missed the Parklane game to injury but played in the regular season finale against Silliman, is recovering from a hamstring injury. He rushed for 214 yards against Silliman to stand out 216 carries for 1,529 yards on the season.

&uot;I don’t know how long it takes to recover from a torn hamstring injury, but he’s better and should be good to go,&uot; Walters said. &uot;Everybody else is good. We’re better health-wise than we’ve been in a while. I think we’re ready. Certainly we don’t have any playoff experience to draw on, but this is a great opportunity for us. We’re excited about being there. Win, lose or draw, this helps our program make the next step.&uot;

A healthy Ogden could help the Rebels move the ball on offense against a solid MRA defense. The Rebels failed to score against Parklane in Ogden’s absence, and the team went through an offensive skid of three touchdowns over a five-game stretch with none coming courtesy of the running game.

But he’s back healthy, and that’s the emphasis for MRA’s defense.

&uot;Ogden is back healthy, but we didn’t see a lot of film on him,&uot; Moore said. &uot;He’s a big kid who runs hard, but their quarterback is a really good player along with the wide receiver and tight end. They’re a good team and are well-coached. We’ve seen a lot of formations, and they give us a lot to prepare for. We’ll have to prepare for all of it.&uot;

It’s the MRA offense that gives Walters and his staff something to prepare for. The system centers around quarterback Chad Crosswhite, who will play baseball at Mississippi State, along with good-sized receivers Phillip Harrison and Jim Owens.

&uot;They very athletic and have size and speed,&uot; Walters said. &uot;They do a very good job of throwing the ball. They’re about a 50-50 mix team, but they throw the ball real well.

They have a running back who is really good. They’re big, and we’ll have to do some things to account for that.&uot;