WCCA aiming for 2nd straight title, hosts Tri-County Friday

Published 11:33 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Wilkinson County coach Chris McGraw stood within earshot of his team Wednesday at practice as they went over the final game plan for Friday night’s MAIS A-AA home playoff tilt against Tri-County Academy.

The second-year coach barked out orders and meticulously outlined the game plan to what he thinks will result in a victory Friday night.

“The kids have bought in, and they work hard,” McGraw said. “We come to work every day, no matter what. They come to work non-stop, and that’s all that matters.”

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WCCA, which defeated Tri-County in last year’s state championship game, 8-7, is on the doorstep of perhaps repeating as state champions but must force their way past the Rebels (10-1) first.

“Tri-County does everything well,” McGraw said. “They’re very sound at what they do. They’re the first team I think that matches up with us up front, and they have ”

The Rams (9-1), the District 5-5A champions, have relied on the strength of their running game and powerful offensive line to this point.

“I don’t see a point in throwing it when you can run it and keep it away from other teams,” McGraw said. “Everybody focuses on (quarterback) Caleb Poole, and don’t get me wrong, Caleb’s as good as I’ve coached …  Steven Franks is our second-leading rusher, and he has nearly 1300 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns,” McGraw said.

Poole didn’t make the transition to under center until Week 6 of the 2015 campaign, and McGraw said the move has made the entire team better.

“He’s special, he’s got God given ability,” McGraw said. “God’s blessed that kid with as much ability as he wants.”

The Natchez Democrat’s 2015 All-Metro Player of the Year, Poole has served as the lynchpin for the Rams’ stout ground attack, evidenced by his 209 yards rushing and four touchdowns in last week’s 40-14 playoff win over Glenbrook Academy.

The senior signal-caller, however, noted he is not the only Ram to deserve notoriety, crediting fellow ball-carriers and lead blockers.

“We have a real big offensive line,” Poole said. “The smallest

one is probably 235 (pounds) and the biggest one is 355.”

After winning a total of five games his first two varsity seasons, Poole credits McGraw’s attention to detail as to the turnaround of the last two years.

“He came in here and changed our program,” Poole said. “He’s a really good motivational speaker. He’s made us want to work.”

The Ram’s will be without senior Braden Passinger Friday, who’s provided an extra inspiration after having suffering a season-ending injury last week.

“He meant a lot to this football team,” Poole said. “We’re going to have to fill his spot and more.”

McGraw said Passinger has been treated for a head injury at Our Lady of the Lake hospital in Baton Rouge the last several days, but the senior standout made his way back home Wednesday.

“You just thank the dear Lord that he is able to come home,” McGraw said. “That’s our biggest blessing.”

Passinger served as a defensive catalyst, making checks and calls for the Rams defensively, McGraw said.

“He was our vocal leader,” he said. “If we needed a play, he went and made it. ”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday.