By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Coosa Christian special teams unit was indeed just that last Friday (Sept. 16).
The Conquerors scored two first-half touchdowns off blocked punts on the way to a 21-7 victory over Jacksonville Christian Academy in a Class 1A, Region 6 game in Gadsden.
Coosa (2-3, 2-0) added another score midway through the third quarter and held off the Thunder (2-3, 2-1) over the final 16 munutes.
The game was delayed nearly 15 minutes near the end of the third period after an on-the-field altercation. Two players from each team were ejected.
“We try to play clean ball, but sometimes you get pushed to the edge, and our guys fight for one another,” said Coosa head coach Chris Sanders. “We fight for our brother, and hopefully we do that through the whistle. We could have lost our composure after that, but we didn’t and we kept our goal that we had before the game.”
Dartavious Britton kept the JCA defense off-balance all night, as the junior running back rushed for 126 yards on 16 carries.
Subbing for an injured Caiden Lipscomb at quarterback, Jace Mills completed 4-of-11 passes for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Caden Davison caught both TD passes for 32 yards.
Defensively for the Conquerors, Teppei Daisaku had 10 tackles, followed by Emory Kitchens with seven and Lipscomb and Seongsoo Park with five each.
Kitchens, Park, Brady Long each had a sack.
The hosts didn’t get off to an ideal start, as the Conquerors turned the ball over on their first three possessions.
The first turnover came at 9:33 of the first quarter, when Donald Cobb intercepted the ball at the Thunder 15 yard-line.
A 32-yard pass completion from Jayden Mitchell to Kaleb Murphy put JCA on the Coosa 7, where Murphy took it in for the score. Eli McCormick’s PAT made it 7-0 at the six-minute mark of the first.
The Conquerors fumbled the ball away on the next play from scrimmage, but the ensuing JCA drive ended in a missed field goal attempt.
The third Coosa miscue – a fumble that the Thunder’s Walker Messer covered at the JCA 17 – led to a failed fourth down conversion attempt.
The Conquerors had to punt on the following series, but the Coosa defense stiffened and forced the visitors to punt from their own 1-yard line. Josh Burger deflected the kick, and Jackson Justus scooped up the ball and ran 12 yards for the score.
The PAT was no good, but the Conquerors drew within one point at the 1:37 mark of the second quarter.
The Thunder could not get a first down on the next possession, and JCA elected to punt the ball back to Coosa with under a minute to go.
Kitchens broke through for the block, and Burger returned the ball to the Thunder 18. Two plays later, Mills found Davison in the end zone for a touchdown. Mills ran in the two-point conversion giving the hosts a 14-7 lead at halftime.
The turning point of the game came the first series of the second half. The Thunder drove 68 yards in eight plays to the 13, where they faced a fourth down and 4.
JCA went for it, and Coosa held firm. A 45-yard run by Britton then set up the Conquerors at the JCA 14, where Mills and Davidson hooked up on a touchdown pass.
Park nailed the point-after, extending the Coosa advantage to 21-7 at 4:40 of the third period.
“Lately we’ve been playing bend but don’t break, and it worked out real well right there,” said Sanders. “They took a few shots but we held our ground, and I’m very proud of our kids for that.”
The Conqueror defense did the rest from that point on, holding JCA to minus-22 yards of offense over the remainder of the contest.
For the Thunder, Murphy finished with 102 rushing yards on 18 carries. Mitchell was 7-for-20 in passing for 95 yards.
“You’ve got to be willing to take a counter-punch and still stay in the fight, and our guys did that tonight,” said Sanders. “[JCA] flipped the momentum two of three times, but we stepped up and got the job done. We learned from the Ragland game (a 62-33 loss on Sept. 9) that we can’t just show up and expect a win to be given to us; we have to work for it.”
Coosa hosts Victory Christian for the Conquerors’ homecoming this Friday (Sept. 23).