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Purvis leaves BA to return home to his alma mater

Ten years ago, Blake Purvis was part of a group of players that turned Porters Chapel Academy from a perennial also-ran to a football powerhouse. Now he’s heading back home to try and do the same as its coach.

Blake Purvis

Blake Purvis

Purvis, a 2006 graduate of PCA, was hired by his alma mater this week as its new head football coach. He’s spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Brookhaven Academy, and has also been a college assistant at Division II West Texas A&M and Mississippi College.

“It was home,” Purvis said of his reason for taking the PCA job. “Being an alumni and getting an opportunity to come home and build the program back to where it was when I was there. It can be somewhere it can be successful. I’ve seen it first-hand.”

Purvis will replace Wayne Lynch, who resigned with one game left in the 2015 season.

Purvis said he will remain at Brookhaven Academy until the end of the school year. He hopes to conduct spring practice at Porters Chapel, but that will depend largely on how well the baseball team does. Most of PCA’s football players also play baseball, and the latter sport’s season could extend into May if the team makes a deep playoff run.

PCA was 5-23 in three seasons under Lynch, and has not had a winning record since 2008. It’s been a big decline from Purvis’ playing days, when the Eagles went 20-3 his last two seasons and reached the MAIS Class A semifinals in 2005, his senior year.

Building the program back up will not be easy, but Purvis believes he has a unique perspective on the situation. PCA went 4-6 when he was a sophomore, and turned into an 11-1 juggernaut by his senior year.

That 2005 season was the first of three trips PCA made to the Class A or AA semifinals in four years.

Purvis later came back to PCA as an assistant under former coaches Randy Wright and John Weaver. He’s intimately familiar with the workings of the program, has seen it during good times and bad, and believes that will help him rejuvenate it.

“I’ve walked the sidelines as a player and coach, and been through the ups and downs. The opportunity to come back and run the program myself and get it back to what it’s capable of was something I wanted,” Purvis said. “I believe there’s a good group of players. I believe we’ll be a little young next year. I still have high expectations. You don’t take a job without high expectations. There’s a good group coming up and some talent to work with, and we can experience success.”

PCA athletic director Wade Patrick felt the same way. He said having a coach with such deep ties to the program is a major asset.

“You have a guy that has tasted success at the high school level with our program,” Patrick said. “He’s familiar and is from the area. To come back home is always a good thing for all parties. You don’t get that chance often.”

Purvis is only 27 years old – he’ll turn 28 next month – but has packed a lot of coaching experience into the decade since he graduated high school.

The Port Gibson native did his two previous coaching stints at PCA while earning a degree from Mississippi State, and was on West Texas A&M’s staff while working toward his master’s degree. He then spent one season as the running backs coach at Mississippi College.

In 2014, at the ripe old age of 25, he became a head coach for the first time when he was hired by Brookhaven Academy.

“I’m going on my eighth or ninth year to coach,” Purvis pointed out.

He’s also one of the most respected young high school coaches in the country. At this year’s American Football Coaches Association national convention, Purvis was selected to participate in the inaugural AFCA 30 Under 30 Coaches’ Leadership Institute. The program is aimed at training future leaders in the football coaching profession, and its members received instruction on topics including ethics, leadership, NCAA rules, financial management, hiring and player safety.

Almost 200 coaches applied for the program. Purvis was one of four high school coaches nationwide who made the final cut.

“It’s an honor at any point to be part of that. But to be part of the first class is something I’m extremely proud of,” Purvis said. “We got to meet and converse with some of the top personnel in the field in the country. It was a great experience. Definitely one I’ll cherish my entire life.”

By Ernest Bowker, The Vicksburg Post