Photo: Coosa Christian’s Eli Motes (left) catches a pass as Lynn’s Janson Barton attempts a tackle during the Conquerors’ 46-29 victory in the Class 1A state football quarterfinals on November 18 in Gadsden. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Good Ship Conquerors’ journey into uncharted waters continued on November 18 in Gadsden.
After the Coosa Christian offense scored on all six possessions in the first half, the defense held Lynn to eight points in the second half on the way to a 46-29 victory in the Class 1A state football quarterfinals.
The Conquerors (9-4) travel to Pickens County for a semifinal matchup this Friday (Nov. 25) in Reform.
The victory over Lynn was the seventh straight for Coosa, which tied the school’s Alabama High School Athletic Association consecutive win streak mark set by the 2009 team.
Lynn finished with 338 to 328 advantage in total yards, but the Conquerors out-rushed the Bears by a 231 to 96-yard margin.
“We scored a lot of points in the first half, but it was tough after Jy [Mostella] went out (due to an ejection early in the second half),” said Coosa Christian head coach Mark O’Bryant. “Clete [O’Bryant] does a good job (at fullback), but we’re a different team when Jy’s not in there, and we had to go to clock management after he left. Scoring wasn’t the issue; we just had to find a way to run the clock.”
The teams traded scores on the game’s initial five series until Clete O’Bryant recovered a fumble off a kickoff at the Bear 33-yard line five minutes into the second quarter. Six plays later, O’Bryant finished what he started when he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from John David Justus. Jadan Burn’s PAT gave the hosts the lead for good at 24-13.
Coming out of halftime with a 37-14 advantage, the Coosa special teams quickly tacked on two more points when the Conquerors tackled a Lynn ball carrier in the end zone on the opening kickoff of the second half.
The Coosa defense took it from there, allowing eight points over the game’s final 24 minutes. The Bears’ last three full second half possessions ended in a punt and two failed fourth down conversion attempts. Clete O’Bryant’s three-yard touchdown run with 50 seconds to go put the Conquerors up by 17 points and put a lid on any sort late rally by Lynn.
Mostella rushed 15 times for 126 yards and two touchdowns. All but five of those yards came in the first half. He also caught a touchdown pass.
Clete O’Bryant finished with 89 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. He also caught two passes for 15 yards and a TD. He had 15 tackles on defense.
Justus was 8 for 15 in passing for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Jacoby Tucker had three receptions for 33 yards.
Drake Albury, Matthew Wright, Eli Motes Drake Dupree and Grayson Malone each had five tackles. Albury, Wright and Kaeden Hill each had a sack.
Coosa opened the game’s first series in style with a 32-yard run by Mostella, which helped set up a 30-yard field goal by Burns at 9:37 of the first quarter.
The Bears responded in kind. Lynn’s first play from scrimmage was a 38-yard pass completion from Cale Tittle to Jacob Tidwell. Five plays later, Cole Kelly ran it in from a yard out, putting the visitors ahead 7-3 at 6:27.
That lead lasted all of a minute and 35 seconds when Mostella scored on a nine-yard run. Burns booted the first of his five extra points for a 10-7 lead.
The Conquerors soon relinquished the advantage, as a 30-yard run from Tittle set up his seven-yard TD pass to Crimson Adamson, resulting in a 10-7 Lynn lead with 90 seconds remaining in the opening period.
Coosa wasn’t down for long. The Conquerors’ ensuing nine-play, 63-yard series was polished off with Justus’ 41-yard touchdown pass to Mostella at 9:37 of the second quarter, making it 17-13 in favor of the hosts.
Clete O’Bryant’s subsequent fumble recovery and touchdown pushed the lead to 11 points, but Lynn kept pace on the next drive via Tittle’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Logan Madison. Tittle’s successful two-point conversion run pulled the Bears within 24-21 with three minutes left in the half.
But the Conquerors began to pull away late in the first half. Mostella took it to the house for 33 yards out on the next Coosa drive, and two plays into the next Lynn possession, Clete O’Bryant intercepted a pass at midfield and returned to the Bear 26. A 15-yard run from Mostella and a personal foul penalty against Lynn moved the ball inside the Bear 5. Justus scored from a yard out, sending the Conquerors into halftime with a 37-21 lead.
Lynn’s plans for a comeback were compromised by Coosa’s safety 15 seconds into the second half. The Bears forced a punt on the next Conquerors series, but Lynn’s first possession of the half ended after 10 plays when Drake Albury sacked Tittle on fourth down.
Lynn cashed in late in the third quarter by way of Tittle’s 55-yard touchdown pass to Tidwell, and Tittle’s two-point conversion pass to Jase Dodd cut the deficit to 39-29 at 3:19. But the Coosa defense allowed only 37 total yards the rest of the way, and Clete O’Bryant’s touchdown with less than a minute to go secured the Conquerors’ first-ever berth in an AHSAA state semifinal game.
“I think the key to our success is that we’re so dad gum physical,” said Mark O’Bryant. “I think [Lynn] got tired of getting hit by the end. We were definitely in better condition than them. Our competition was brutal earlier in the year, and it’s paying off now.”
Tittle finished with 325 total yards. He was 19 for 30 in passing for 262 yards and rushed for 63 yards on 16 carries.
Madison had five receptions for 58 yards, while Tidwell caught four passes for 112 yards,
Mark O’Bryant did not want his team resting on its laurels.
“I’m proud of our kids for getting the ‘W,’ but it only gets harder from here on out,” he said.