CCA falls to reigning MAIS Class A champion West Memphis


Columbus Christian Academy’s Jaden Henderson drags down West Memphis quarterback Parker Benson for a sack.

Columbus Christian Academy’s Jaden Henderson drags down West Memphis quarterback Parker Benson for a sack. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch


By David Miller, Special to The Dispatch



STEENS -- The Columbus Christian Academy football team is battered, frustrated, and looking for signs it is improving -- and closer to winning games. 


CCA's season-opening victory against Porter's Chapel feels like a distant memory after it suffered its second-straight blowout loss Friday, falling 54-7 to reigning Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class A State champion West Memphis Christian Academy. 


The Rams entered the game without offensive linemen Sam Middlebrooks and Hayden Barker, who transferred to Caledonia. Quarterback Dakota Shaw, who was sacked four times and completed one pass, suffered a leg sprain at the end of the second quarter. 


Shaw left the game after a pass under pressure that saw Malik Washington turn it into a 41-yard score with five seconds left in the first half. Shaw didn't play in the second half. 


West Memphis (2-1) led 42-0 at halftime. 


"It's kind of hard to replace two guys on short notice, and we had to start two ninth-graders on the offensive line," CCA coach Bill Beck said. "I know it affected their mentality in the game." 


The Rams (1-2) mishandled two snaps on their first two plays. They went three-and-out on the opening drive and then gave up a 61-yard touchdown pass on West Memphis' first play.  


Bryar Kemp and Jaden Henderson had sacks on West Memphis' next drive, but, in what proved to be a trend, the Knights leaned on their precision passing game to dig themselves out of negative plays, even against tight coverage. 


West Memphis quarterback Parker Benson was 12-for-13 for 318 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. 


"A couple of times, we had Jeremy Emerson, a ninth-grade corner, who was in good field position but just didn't get his head around quick enough for the ball, which was on the money," Beck said. "Overall, Jeremy did a good job. He's 14 years old guarding a senior, but that's the situation he's in." 


Down 28-0, the Rams appeared to find their footing midway through the second quarter, when Shaw hit sophomore tight end Tyler Looney for 23 yards and a first down at the West Memphis 25-yard line. But the Rams had back-to-back false starts and two plays that lost 14 yards. They punted from the 27. 


Beck said the offense is adjusting to a spread system, and the only remedy is time. 


"Really, to get it right, you have to start it in your junior high program and get them through it," Beck said. "That's what we're lacking -- the time to get things in. We have to be more basic on offense and work the play-action passing game. We're kind of limited right now." 


Kemp scored CCA's touchdown -- a 3-yard run in the fourth quarter. Jordan Henderson led CCA with 66 yards on nine carries. 


Beck focused on positive energy and leadership after the game, sensing the frustration boiling in his players in the last two games. 


"They've got a lot to learn about how to win," Beck said. "We've got a lot of work to do for us to get better. We faced a good football team tonight that'll be in the mix at the end of the year. (The Knights) score 22 points in the first quarter, and that affects your mental savvy, and we didn't rebound from it very well. 


"I'm hard on these guys in our postgame talks about attitude, but you have to make them aware of it. We live in a day and age where what you're doing as a coach, everything is pulling opposite of that. We just have to continue to work on them. Sometimes it's tough love. Sometimes it's a pat on back. You got to be willing to do both to get them to where they need to go." 




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