Conquerors sail into state quarterfinals

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Messenger file photo by Chris McCarthy

By Shannon Fagan/WEIS Radio Sports

Chris McCarthy/Publisher/Editor

Add another “first” to the list of Coosa Christian football team’s accomplishments this season.
Fresh off their first-ever AHSAA playoff victory last week against Hackleburg, the Conquerors (8-4) went on the road on November 11 and took down No. 6 Spring Garden, 31-28, in the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs.
Jadan Burns (pictured above) kicked a 21-yard field goal with 9.5 seconds remaining to give Coosa its first-ever berth in the state quarterfinals. The Conquerors host Lynn this Friday (Nov. 18).
The win avenged the Conquerors’ 27-0 Region 6 loss to the Panthers on August 26. It was Coosa’s sixth straight win following a four-point loss to Tennessee powerhouse Gatlinburg-Pittman on September 23.
“Our kids played hard, and I’m really, really proud of them,” said Coosa Christian head coach Mark O’Bryant. “[Spring Garden] plays really, physical, and to be frank, we’re trying to build this program mirroring what they have done. [Spring Garden head coach] Jason Howard is a phenomenal coach, and we have the utmost respect for that bunch.
“We’re down a road this school’s never been down. This is all new territory for us. We’re just grateful, blessed and thankful. It’s survive and move on at this point of the season, and we know what need to do [against Lynn] next week.”
With the game tied at 28 after Jy Mostella caught a tipped pass for a 20-yard touchdown with 3:23 remaining in the fourth quarter, Spring Garden drove inside Conqueror territory. However, the Panther drive stalled, and the offense was put into a fourth-and-11 situation at the Conqueror 41-yard line.
Howard took a timeout and decided to go for fourth down, but a pass fell incomplete, turning the ball over on downs.
“We felt like we had to go win it in regulation,” said Howard. “We thought we’d have trouble in overtime.”
With a short field and 1:02 left to play, the Conquerors had just enough time to manufacture the game-winning drive.
Quarterback John David Justus connected with Jacoby Tucker three times on the ;possession, with Tucker’s last catch a 37-yard dagger down to the Spring Garden 8. The Panthers were called for holding two plays later, which pushed the ball down to the 4-yard line.
Burns then booted what turned out to be the game-winning kick.
“[Burns] was really down on himself because we lost the region championship after he missed a last-second field goal,” O’Bryant said. “He had a chance to redeem himself in a little bigger atmosphere. I’m glad for him because he really works hard. I’m really proud of him for redeeming himself.”
Spring Garden had one last chance on the ensuing kickoff, which was lateraled several times before the Conquerors recovered the ball and the game clock hit zero.
Mostella finished with 197 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Justus completed 6-of-20 pass attempts for 159 yards with two TDS. Tucker had five catches for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Coosa linebacker Clete O’Bryant finished with a game-high 18 tackles, followed by Dalton McGraw with 15 (two for a loss), Eli Motes with nine (three for a loss), D.J. Mackey and Jacoby Tucker with seven each and Drake Dupree with five.
Jason Pope provided the Panthers a 14-0 lead with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Haney with 3:24 left in the first quarter and a 19-yard run early in the second.
Mostella ran in for the Conquerors’ first touchdown on a 23-yard carry with 9:55 to go in the first half. Following a Panther punt, Justus connected with Tucker on a 72-yard score to tie the game at 14 with 6:38 left in the second quarter.
Spring Garden (10-2) regained the lead on Pope’s 4-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive, which gave the Panthers a 21-14 edge at halftime.
Pope finished the game rushing for 133 yards and two scores on 20 carries. He also completed 6-of-12 pass attempts for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Spring Garden attempted to extend its lead with the opening possession of the third quarter, but the Panthers missed a 33-yard field goal. From there, the Conquerors marched 99 yards in just four plays, capped off by Mostella’s 51-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 21.
Just two plays later, Connor Bates put the Panthers back out in front 28-21 with his 71-yard touchdown run. Bates led Spring Garden’s ground attack with 179 yards on 18 carries.
Coosa accounted for the game’s final two scores of the game on Justus’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Mostella with 3:23 to go and Burns’ game-winning kick.
“You’ve got to give [Coosa] credit; they made the plays at the end,” Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said. “I felt like they were more physical than they were earlier in the year. They took it to us. They were able to stuff a lot of the things we did. They established the line of scrimmage. I thought they ran the ball really well. I felt like they had a good game plan. I feel like they did about everything they had to and executed it to a ‘T’.

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