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Big plays lift Tuscaloosa Christian past Victory Christian

 

By Ben Price, Special to The Dispatch

 

COTTONDALE, Ala. -- Slow and steady wins the race. 

 

The old saying proved untrue Friday night for the Victory Christian Academy football team in the Christian Football Association championship game.  

 

Trailing 14-0 at halftime, Victory Christian slowly but surely worked back into the game in the second half only to have its championship hopes dashed in the final minutes by a big play. With less than three minutes remaining, Tuscaloosa Christian running back Hunter Sample scored on a 58-yard run to help lift his team to a 20-14 victory. The win was Tuscaloosa Christian's third against Victory Christian this season. 

 

"I felt like we were confident, like we had a good plan coming in," Victory Christian coach Chris Hamm said. "We moved the ball in the first half but just couldn't punch anything in. When the field got compressed, we couldn't do anything. Early on we just couldn't do anything to punch it in, and that came back to bite us." 

 

Tuscaloosa Christian used the big play to build an early lead. Sample's 62-yard run in the second quarter was the first score. A two-point conversion made it 8-0. On the Warriors' next drive, quarterback Caleb Waddell found Boyd Banks on a misdirection screen play. Banks weaved in and out of traffic behind a barrage of blockers and found the end zone after an 85-yard catch and run. The score right before halftime made it 14-0 and appeared to set the Warriors up for an easy third victory against the Eagles. 

 

"Big plays were the difference. The running back got loose on us a couple times and they went to the fullback on that long screen pass," Hamm said. "All in all, I was pleased with the defense. Just three plays out of the whole night they hurt us." 

 

The Eagles' defense was dominant in the third quarter and didn't allow a first down. The play of that unit gave Victory Christian belief it could come all the way back. 

 

"We were down to one half. We were only two scores down and we knew we could score," Hamm said. "It was just a matter of raising the intensity and being aggressive. That's what they did, and I'm proud of them."  

 

Anthony Sharp's 2-yard run capped a 10-play, 53-yard drive that put the Eagles back into the mix entering the fourth quarter. The defense remained dominant in the fourth quarter as the offense plugged away. Sharp and running back Cody Bolton kept the defense off balance and once again found the end zone. This time, Bolton scored on 2-yard run that made it 14-12. Sharp found Bolton on a broken pass play and Bolton plunged in for the conversion to tie the game at 14.  

 

"Besides a couple big plays on offense we had held them consistently on defense," Sharp said. "On offense, we got down inside the red zone a couple times but couldn't punch it in, so we knew we still had a chance to come out in the second half and get a win." 

 

With only a few minutes remaining, the defensive struggle appeared to be on its way to overtime. Victory Christian's defense had only allowed 3 yards in the second half.  

 

Despite all the momentum on Victory Christian's side, Tuscaloosa Christian handed off to Sample on the first play of the ensuing possession and he burst up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown run. 

 

With less than three minutes to go, Victory Christian took over but couldn't mount a comeback, as the Warriors held on on fourth down to preserve the title. 

 

"They all gave a great effort," Sharp said. "I'm really proud of them. Our guys were banged up with a lot of injuries, but we all fought hard."

 

 

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