September 8, 2013 2:34:09 AM
STEENS -- Junior quarterback JJ Swanagin connected with KC Cunningham on a 44-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left in the game Friday night to lead the Immanuel Christian School football team to an 18-15 victory against Carroll Academy.
Swanagin, a transfer from Columbus High School, was 13 of 19 for 219 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 45 yards to help the Rams improve to 2-1 and 1-0 in the district.
"There was a lot of pressure on me during that last play," Swanagin said. "I had a lot of faith in my line and I dropped back and saw KC across the middle. I thought he was about to get tackled because of how he was stumbling, but I know how strong KC is and how quick he is. He has great balance."
Trailing 15-12 with a little more than a minute to play, Immanuel Christian marched past the 50-yard line into Rebel territory. On a long third-and-10, Swanagin dropped back, surveyed his options, and found Cunningham across the middle. Cunningham caught the pass, juked past defenders, spun, and sped into the end zone.
"I was expecting a big play to come. I was waiting on it to come and we executed when it came," Cunningham said. "If it weren't for Jaelin Bankhead's block, I would have never gotten into the end zone."
Immanuel Christian coach Greg Watkins is excited about where Swanagin could lead the Rams this season.
"He's done a pretty good job," Watkins said. "He hadn't played defense before, and with our numbers I told him he was going to have to play defense. He's getting better and better at that."
Watkins said Swanagin is still learning how to play quarterback and is getting better each day.
Swanagin said he has become a different athlete in his first year at Immanuel Christian.
"We do CrossFit here as a workout," Swanagin said. "I've had to become a leader at Immanuel. I had to step up tonight. My teammates look up to me, so I have to be a leader."
The Immanuel players also are excited to have Swanagin on the roster. Cunningham said Swanagin adds a different element to the program.
"(Swanagin coming in) was a huge transition for the team," Cunningham said. "We needed him pretty bad because Immanuel hasn't had a legit quarterback until we got JJ. That made our team click. Without a quarterback we couldn't function as a football team. We're going to get better going forward."
Immanuel Christian will try to build on the momentum Friday when it travels to Booneville to face New Site.