MACON — Ronnie Sciple is curious.
Two weeks ago, he thought his Central Academy football team was ready for the challenge to face Kemper Academy.
The undefeated rivals already were assured playoff spots, but the winner would earn the right to play at home in the semifinals of the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools playoffs.
T-shirts were made to commemorate the game and the hype was buzzing all over the area.
Kemper Academy silenced that noise in a hurry.
The Rams” 54-0 victory on Oct. 29 ended the Vikings” longest undefeated run to start a season and left Sciple wondering what happened to his team.
“I don”t even think we got off the bus,” Sciple said. “That”s what it looked like to me. We couldn”t do anything right. We fumbled the ball and they threw a pass one time and we had two defenders and one tipped it and the other one tipped it and it still hit the guy perfect.”
Central Academy and Kemper Academy will meet again at 1 p.m. today at Jackson Prep to determine the 2010 MAIS Eight-Man champion.
Sciple said his team”s inability to tackle compounded things on an evening when little went right. He didn”t know how the Vikings played like that because he felt the team was mentally and physically ready to play their biggest rival.
“We just have to play better, tackle, and offensively we have to block,” Sciple said. “The other night we couldn”t get anything going or any kind of rhythm.”
Central Academy had more good fortune last week in a 22-20 victory at Tensas Academy (La.). Sciple”s team forced a turnover at its 1-yard line in the final minute and then recovered the fumble in the end zone to help preserve the win.
“They played better,” Sciple said. “They still didn”t play a great game, but they played better. It didn”t take a whole lot to play better than they played against Kemper. We made tackles, we moved the football, and when we did run the ball we ran hard. It was an improvement, but it still wasn”t a complete game.”
Today, Sciple said the only good thing about playing such a good team this soon after suffering such a big loss is everyone in the program knows the team didn”t play close to as good as it is capable. Now it is a matter of delivering a mistake-free performance, playing with a lot of emotion, and capitalizing on a few mistakes.
Coach Pete McCleskey”s Rams (8-0), who won the initial Eight-Man championship in 2007, are averaging nearly 54 points a game. Quarterback Clint Quinn and the backfield of Tyler Sanderford and Johnny Allen lead the high-powered attack. Sanderford and Allen combined for 419 rushing yards, while Quinn threw for 277 yards and six touchdowns in an 80-20 victory against Briarfield Academy (La.) in the state semifinals last week. The Rams have allowed just 66 points this season.
Sciple said the unseasonably warm temperatures won”t bother his team. He said he is curious to see how the Vikings handle playing on turf for the first time and handling all of the distractions that come with playing on the road in a state title game. “We just have to settle down and play our type of football,” Sciple said. “We know it is going to be a physical game. Kemper is physical, but we”re big enough and have been physical. We need to get back to there and not get caught up in all of the hoopla.
“I am curious to see which team shows up to play. If it is the one I thought I was leaving here to go over there the last time, or if it is the one I got over there with.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.