WCCA Rams look to bounce back in 2023 despite a tough schedule

Published 9:44 am Friday, August 18, 2023

WOODVILLE — After reaching the state semifinals of the MAIS 8-Man Class 1A Playoffs in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the 2022 season was considered a down year for the Wilkinson County Christian Academy Rams.

WCCA went 7-4 overall and 2-1 in District 3-1A, finishing in second place in district play behind Tensas Academy after a rough 40-12 loss on the road to the Chiefs in Week 2. But because they had the highest power rating among the non-district champions, the Rams still earned the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye.

Unfortunately, WCCA’s stay in the postseason was a rather quick one after a stunning 64-6 loss at home to the No. 5 seed and district rival Riverdale Academy Rebels — the same team the Rams defeated 36-12, also at home, just two weeks earlier.

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“We started slow. Our coaches really coached out players up and we had a good season,” Rams head coach Randy Holloway said. “I tribute that to our coaching staff and our players. We didn’t have the success we usually have. Our playoff bracket was deep last year.”

The Rams will still be in District 3-1A and will still have the same three district opponents — Tensas Academy, Riverdale Academy, and Franklin Academy. However, the Rams and the Chiefs will not play each other until Week 7 on Friday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. Just like last year, the game will be played at Tensas Academy.

As for what it will take for the Rams to come out on top this time around, Holloway said, “Not make early mistakes. Control the ball. We had a lot of early mistakes that we didn’t recuperate from. They had a senior-laden team. We knew they were going to be good.”

WCCA lost three seniors from last year’s team — Ryan Fisher, who signed with Southwest Mississippi Community College; Nathan Mudd, who signed with Louisiana College; and Gary Veals, who signed with Clark College in Iowa.

However, the Rams have plenty of key players returning in all three phases of the game. The offense, as well as part of the special teams, will be led by junior quarterback/punter Jacob Sessions, who Holloway described as a “dual-threat quarterback, running and passing.” The running game will be led by senior Jack Orgeron and juniors Cole Partridge, Napoleon Howard, and Jared Lanehart. At wide receiver will be a trio of sophomores in Easton Buteaux, Wesley Sanchez, and Tucker Freman.

“Our offensive line will be anchored by 6-6 junior Beau Deville, sophomores Cannon Holland and Jonathon Meredith, and freshman Davis Randall, who’s the strongest kid on the team,” Holloway said.

Even though the Rams will have an experienced quarterback as well as overall team speed as the strengths of the offense, Holloway is concern about having an inexperience offensive line with just one returning starter.

Defensively, Orgeron will the leader on that side of the ball as a returning All-District middle linebacker. The defensive line will be led by senior Brayden Ready as far as pass rush is concerned. Sophomore outside linebacker Charles Grezaffi is the Rams’ best cover linebacker. The secondary will be led by senior cornerback Gavin Davis, who will also do the team’s place-kicking duties.

Holloway said the strength of the Rams’ defense is its speed to the ball and its weakness is being undersized.

“Our strength of schedule is probably No. 1 in the state. There’s not easy games on our schedule,” Holloway said. “Riverdale Academy is probably the team to beat in our district. They had a great playoff run last year and they only lost one starter. They have everyone coming back. They’re going to be hard to handle.

“This is a deep district. There’s not weak sister in our district. Franklin Academy will be better than it was last year. You never know what (Tensas Academy) is going to get in. But I think they’re going to take a step back.”