October 2, 2010 11:14:00 AM
In August, Ronnie Sciple figured numbers would play an integral role in the fortunes of the Central Academy football coach.
With less than 15 players to start the season, Sciple knew the Vikings, who play eight-man football in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (Division 1) couldn''t afford to have any injuries if they want to have a successful year.
The recent addition of four players (two seniors and two juniors) has boosted Central Academy''s roster to a robust 17, including injuries, and has given Sciple a little room for maneuvering.
The additional bodies have allowed Sciple and the Vikings to look at another set of numbers that has the potential to impact the season.
Central Academy (6-0, 2-0 Division 1) has matched its longest winning streak to start the season since 1995, and is two victories away from matching its most wins in a season since 1997 (eight). To eclipse those marks, the Vikings will have to take care of business against some of the division''s top teams. The next challenge will come at 7 tonight when Central Academy plays host to Delta Academy. The Vikings beat the Raiders (0-4) 42-6 last season.
"I think we just have come together better as a team," Sciple said when asked to explain his team''s start. "All of the kids are playing well. They rely more on each other than on one person to get the job done."
The Vikings received a boost recently when seniors Harrison Hadaway and Alonzo Rodriguez and juniors Will Thomas and A.J. Jernigan joined the team. All four played key roles in a 70-20 victory against Veritas last week. Sciple said he didn''t intend for the Vikings to score 70 points (the most in at least the past 16 seasons), but he praised his players, including Jernigan (two touchdowns) and the newcomers for playing hard.
Looking at the numbers, four players might not mean a whole lot, especially when the players don''t have much experience, but Sciple said all four have provided other players needed breaks and rest, which should help the team the rest of the way. That rest will be critical for a team that at one point earlier this season was down to 10 healthy players.
"They all seem proud that the players have come out," said Sciple, who believes the football team has all but one of the boys in the school in grades 9-12. Having two juniors come out was a lift to the junior boys because, hopefully (Thomas and Jernigan) will play next year and it gives them a bigger class."
For now, though, Sciple said the Vikings will continue to look to Ferris McGuire, Cole Newman, Rowdy Rigdon, and Drew Pearson (14 tackles last week) to help the team keep the momentum going. He credited the seniors for showing great leadership.
Central Academy will play host to North Sunflower (2-0 in division) next week before it takes a week off. It will close the regular season on the road at two-time defending state champion Calvary Christian and at Kemper Academy.
As impressive as his team''s 6-0 start is, Sciple said it won''t mean anything if the Vikings don''t keep it going against division opponents.
"All of them are going to be tough," Sciple said. "Having no losses is like having a bull''s eye (on your back)."
The top two teams from the district will advance to the playoffs, with the top seed earning an opportunity to play at home. Sciple said winning out is the best way to ensure the season extends into November. He figured the Vikings would have one or two losses at this point, but the team has exceeded expectations and has forced him to consider even bigger numbers than once imagined.
"I thought early in the year we would have a slip-up, but all I can do right now is preach and preach and preach so we don''t have one. I tell them every week it is like we''re 0-0 and you have got to win.
"I want to stay in Macon (for the playoffs)."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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