PASCAGOULA -- Resurrection Catholic has given up just eight points in the last eight games, a feat that's rare at any level of football.
Senior linebacker Paul Blackwell remembers well the lone touchdown given up by his defense over the last 10 weeks. Lumberton quarterback Jonathan Walley punched it in the end zone on fourth down during a 25-8 win for the Eagles on Oct. 30.
"It was a little shocking. We don't go on kickoff return too much," Blackwell said on Tuesday. "They somehow slipped it in on fourth down."
Blackwell jokes that his team "barely" knows how to line up on kickoff returns this season, but that shouldn't come as a surprise considering RCS has given up just 32 points all season.
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RCS (12-0) takes on that same Lumberton team (8-5) at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Class 1A South State title game at War Memorial Stadium in Pascagoula.
Resurrection, which finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in 1A by The Associated Press, has gone a combined 22-2 over the last two seasons.
At a school that has no history of note in the sport of football, the Eagles are fast developing into a power.
RCS restarted its football program in 2009 after going 23 years without the sport.
"When we started seven years ago, that was the first team they've had since my dad was on the team," Blackwell said. "All the alumni are so proud to see where we are now. Even back then, we weren't a very good team."
Resurrection was a favorite to reach South State last year, but its season ended in the second round of the playoffs with a surprising 24-0 loss at Nanih Waiya.
RCS head coach Scott Sisson graduated his quarterback, Larry Sisson, and top two receivers, Troy Cobb and Darius Kennedy, but he knew that he had plenty of talent back on defense and at running back.
Defensive end Renzell Johnson, linebacker Steve Demetropoulos, defensive tackle Terry Lancaster, safety Michael Gatschet and Blackwell all provide senior leadership on defense.
Demetropolous leads the team with 152 tackles and Gatschet has a team-high six interceptions.
The most disruptive force on defense has been Johnson, who has 134 tackles and a whopping 19 sacks.
"He's been outstanding," Sisson said. "He's there every day and he doesn't hardly say a word. He just loves to play the game. He's just a happy go lucky kid."
Johnson has spent much of the season in the opponent's backfield.
"When I see the quarterback rolling out and I'm backing up into zone, I just see Renzell chasing after him," Demetropolous said.
Johnson credits his teammates for his big season on defense.
"It's really rest of the line," he said. "The rest of the line will be chasing the quarterback and I just have the speed to get him running away from everyone else. It's really team work."
Resurrection continues to rely on a talented group of running backs to put the ball in the end zone.
Junior Patrick Watts, a powerful runner, has 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns on 136 carries. Senior Dillon Jolly has 103 carries for 850 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Blake Porter has improved as the season has gone along to complete 57 percent of his passes for 756 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
"We've just got to get (the offense) going early," Demetropolous said. "They'll usually come out strong in second half. What happened last game (in a 31-0 win at Stringer) is we started off early and that turned out really good."
Scott Sisson, who previously served as head coach at East Central and Pascagoula, has watched as this year's team has developed an uncommon chemistry on and off the field. He points to the 1991 state champion football team at Moss Point, the 1995 baseball team at Moss Point and his 2002 East Central football squad as teams that are similar in how they worked so well together.
"Those are three teams that remind me a lot of this team," Sisson said. "The chemistry was just there, the kids got along great and knew each others role. There was no one superstar."