October 29, 2010 10:02:00 AM
Adam Minichino - firstname.lastname@example.org
MACON -- The T-shirts have been made to commemorate the game.
The hype has been stoked. The records have been polished.
Everything is primed and ready for a winner-take-all matchup between Central Academy (9-0) and undefeated Kemper Academy in a Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Eight-Man Division I game in DeKalb.
The winner will get the top seed in the division and will play host to a first-round playoff game next week.
Central Academy is coming off a 44-14 victory against Calvary Christian. That victory set it up perfectly for a game against its archrival that has plenty of implications.
Coach Ronnie Sciple said his team would much prefer winning tonight to avoid having a travel to Louisiana to play at Tensas Academy next week.
To accomplish that goal, the Vikings likely will rely on a smash-mouth rushing attack that has fueled their success. The ground game has hits its stride after 20-6 and 28-14 victories against Franklin Academy and Immanuel Christian to open the season. A return to health up front has helped the Vikings pound opponents.
"All four of our linemen can snap and we can sub out anywhere," said senior Will Sciple, who is 6-foot-2, 360 pounds. "The playcalling is pretty simple."
Led by seniors Sciple and Matt Taylor, who have both started the past three seasons, and juniors Cody Brown (6-foot, 230) and Redmon Butler (6-2, 250), Central Academy isn''t your traditional eight-man team. Typically, teams tend to spread the field and use a variety of passing schemes to stretch the field.
But the Vikings prefer to line up and come right at you. They don''t mind if it is 3 yards and a cloud of dirt because that approach in eight-man often results in bigger chunks of yards and, eventually, a big play for a score.
"I think we have done a good job," said Sciple, who spearheads an offensive line that fuels a unit that scores more than 41 points and a game and averages 7 to 8 yards a play.
Brown took the place of Sciple, who was injured early in the season. Two games after that, Butler was hurt and Sciple returned to the lineup. The Vikings struggled with numbers and slumped to 11 players on the roster. The addition of four more players (all but one boy in the school plays on the football team) helped boost the team''s depth, as did the return of the offensive line to better health.
By the end of most evenings, Central Academy will have controlled the clock and will have worn down the opponent, much to the delight of the team''s stable of running backs.
"When we start running on them they will be in a three-front," Sciple said. "Then they will get down to a five-man front and we can still run on them. I take pride in that."
The Vikings won''t change their approach tonight. That makes it even more challenging for Sciple, Taylor, and their teammates up front to deliver a quality performance in a rivalry game.
"It is stop us if you can," said Taylor, who is 6-1, 280.
Coach Sciple said the key has been sticking with the same system for the past three seasons. He said the experience of his linemen (he can signal a play into any one of them) helps it, as does the fact that the Vikings have four running backs with at least 500 rushing yards this season.
Cole Newman and Ferric McGuire typically are the ones who benefit from those holes, and they hopes those gaps will be there again tonight to help push the Vikings to the top of the pack.
"We work well together," coach Sciple said of the offensive line. "There are times the running backs make plays. The plays we block correctly we get big gains. The plays when somebody takes a play off or we miss a block we get 3, 2, 1, or none, but they are a good group."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.