The Christ Presbyterian Academy Lions earned its fifth straight berth in the TSSAA Division II-AA championship with a powerful 28-13 victory on the road against Chattanooga Christian School Friday night.
Head coach Ingle Martin, whose team lost three out of four from September 23 to October 21, said how proud he was of his team to be making a return trip to the state final once again.
“We are really excited, and we are really proud of this group of kids starting with our seniors,” Martin said. “Everything that they worked for, to have two more weeks with them—the coaching staff and the boys—we are just really grateful.
“Obviously, we had an opportunity in the middle of the season to fold it up and head to the house. Our kids chose to stick together, continue to believe, continue to work, and I’m really excited to play this last game with them.”
After scoring on the opening drive, thanks to an Asher Keck touchdown, the Lions and Chargers traded turnovers before Chattanooga Christian (10-3) tied the game up 7-7. CPA found the end zone again late in the quarter thanks to a Crews Law touchdown run.
Quarterback Brendan Streeter threw two interceptions, but only one led to points. The second proceeded an Easton Dillard fumble recovery after Law’s touchdown.
“I think the biggest thing was we had two, then we gave two right back to them,” said Martin referring to the turnovers in the first half. “If we don’t give them back two, obviously the turnover margin is going to be much greater in our favor. I think they kind of kept the game even in the first half.”
CPA would get another touchdown from Vanderbilt University commit London Humphreys on a wide receiver sweep just before halftime to take a 21-7 lead at the break.
Both teams started slowly in the second half, punting the ball back and forth, but a Chargers fumble around midfield and return by Leroy Harris to the Charger 10-yard line set up Law for his second touchdown of the game with 3:05 left to play in the third quarter.
Martin highlighted that as a big turning point in the game for the Lions.
“I think our defense overall played their best game of the year,” Martin said. “We are really proud of them and proud of their effort, but any time you can win the turnover margin in the playoff game they give you a chance to be successful.”
CCS scored late in the fourth quarter to give the game its final score, but the defense really stymied the Chargers offense all night.
Martin praised the way the Chargers coaches have been prepared and the way they played hard and deserved to be there.
“Their kids played extremely hard all over the place, and the biggest thing for us was matching that intensity and matching that effort,” Martin said.
The Lions’ head coach hoped his team will bring that same kind of intensity to the championship game back in Chattanooga at Finley Field in two weeks, when they face an undefeated defending champion in Lipscomb Academy. The Mustangs defeated the Lions, 43-21, on Oct. 21 and shut them out 27-0 in last year’s championship game.
“It’s going to have to be another complete game,” Martin said. “It sounds cliché, but again it’s going to be about winning the turnover battle and limiting their big plays. Last game we played against them, they had a couple big plays in the second half, and I think the biggest thing for us on offense is maintaining possession and taking advantage of the opportunities that we have.”
The championship rematch will take place on Thursday, Dec. 1, at 11 a.m. at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga.