October 10, 2017 10:15:54 PM
Nate Parker admits he wasn't used to getting as hit as much as he did in the Columbus Christian Academy football team's first five games.
After suffering an ankle sprain in the season opener, Jordan Meek didn't enjoy having to miss the next three games due to an injury.
Parker and Meek weren't alone because the CCA football team didn't generate a lot of highlights in scoring only three points in an 0-5 start.
But fortunes can change once district play starts.
That's the sentiment CCA coach Greg Watkins tried to convey to his players last week as they prepared to face Delta Streets in their Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class A, District 2 opener.
Parker, Meek, and the Rams then put Watkins' plan into action. Parker ran for a touchdown and threw for another one, and Meek added a 5-yard scoring run to lift CCA to a 23-8 victory.
For their accomplishments, Parker and Meek are The Dispatch's Prep Players of the Week.
In addition to a 6-yard touchdown run, Parker hit Lawson Studdard with a 40-yard touchdown pass. Studdard added a key interception in the fourth quarter that helped set up Meek's touchdown that accounted for the final points. Meek then capped the evening with an interception.
Watkins credited his players for persevering through a tough five-game stretch in which the Rams were outscored 219-3.
"We knew all along that we played a fairly tough schedule against some pretty good teams plus we're pretty young and we have a lot of new guys on the field," Watkins said. "We knew toward the end of the season was when our season really started."
CCA will step out of district this week to play host to Lee Academy. With district games against Deer Creek and Strider Academy, CCA controls its destiny. The district champion receives an automatic spot in the playoffs. The second-place team in the district could advance to the postseason, but it would come down to power rating (points earned).
Watkins said the Rams worked hard to correct the mistakes they saw on film from week to week. He said the players made "a good many mistakes" against Delta Streets, but he also said a number of players emerged and made plays when the right calls might not have been made. As a result, CCA is in the driver's seat in the Class A, District 2 race.
Parker, a senior, will try to make sure the Rams stay there. As one of the squad's most experienced players, Parker didn't' let the frustration of the 0-5 start get him down because he said he knew he had to set a positive example for his teammates. He said it was satisfying to see other players emerge against Delta Streets to give the team a needed boost.
"It was encouraging because we have been working pretty hard," Parker said. "I think we have been pretty focused through the losses and have come out every week, watched film, and worked hard in the weight room.
"They have done better every game. We're just young, but we're getting better."
Parker, too, was proud of his teammates because they recognized the game against Delta Streets "pretty much was a must win." He said he could tell some of the younger players gained confidence from the effort.
Meek is one of those players. After missing a month and a half with torn ligaments and tendons in his ankle, Meek tried to come back to play against Oak Hill Academy, but he managed to play only about half of that game. He said he felt good leading up to the game against Delta Streets and hoped he could play a big role.
"I definitely had more confidence and I was not worried about (his ankle) as much," Meek said. "I definitely saw some people playing a lot better than they had in the last couple of games. It was definitely the best game we played this season. We came together more as a team, and it is just at the right time because we are about to play more district games."
Like Parker, Meek admits the start to the season was "demoralizing." But he feels the team has an edge because it is focused on proving the doubters wrong and showing everyone they can finish the season strong.
Having a Meek back at 100 percent should give the Rams another option to make that happen. Watkins feels Meek's speed and versatility will provide a few more options that will help take some of the focus off Parker, which will free him up to run the ball and to have more success throwing it.
That sounds good to Parker, who has seen the effects the victory has had on his teammates.
"The guys are seeing we can win and we're not bad and we can put some points up," Parker said. "They also are seeing we don't have a bad defense and we can win our district. I think they believe in that right now."
After a slow start, Meek plans to do his part to make sure the Rams reverse course and finish the season with a flurry.
"I feel like the victory is a pretty big turning point," Meek said. "It definitely is going to be a confidence boost, especially for Lawson because he had a heck of a game. Our offensive line did a lot better than they had. It is going to be a real big turning point and is going to be our confidence booster going into the next few games."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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