November 12, 2009 9:04:00 AM
The wait was worth it for the Victory Christian football team.
In a season that even on its final day nothing seemed to go according to plan, the Eagles took care of business like they thought they would.
Led by Parker Eaves'' 320-yard, four-touchdown effort, Victory Christian defeated Tuscaloosa Christian 49-6 on Friday in the Christian Football Association title game in Cottondale, Ala.
The victory helped the Eagles (10-0) win their second CFA title in a row, and third in four years.
While many might have thought Victory Christian was destined to defend its title, things conspired during the season -- and on Friday -- to make that road a little tougher.
The Eagles started the season 3-0 and then were forced to put their season on hold for four weeks due to rain and several opponents not having enough players to field a team.
But the Eagles bounced back from that hiatus and appeared not to miss a beat.
"It was definitely a challenge," Victory Christian coach Chris Hamm said. "Right after the Tabernacle game (on Sept. 11) we all sort of probably had the idea that we were going to breeze through and go on. Then the rains set in and all of the other things. We talked about if we were able to finish it that looking back on this year we were going to take some pride in the fact we had overcome some obstacles."
The path didn''t get any easier before the conference title game.
Running back/defensive Landon Ellis didn''t practice the week of the title game after suffering an injury in the semifinal-round game.
On Friday, the team loaded its charter bus and was supposed to leave for Cottondale, Ala., at 3:30 p.m. The bus died at 3:30 p.m.
Hamm said the team had trouble with the bus overheating two weeks ago and had worked to fix the problem. The bus ran for more than an hour Thursday, so there didn''t seem to be a problem.
The Eagles then scrambled Friday to find enough parents and pickup trucks to get everyone to the game on time.
Once the team arrived at the stadium, wide receiver Tyler Jones realized he had forgotten his No. 22 jersey and Jay Pace realized he had forgotten his pants. Fortunately, another player brought a second pair of pants. Hamm had brought an extra jersey, so Pace wore No. 51. The Eagles then had to switch numbers on helmets and make a number for Pace''s new helmet.
"It was the epitome of how the season went after the Tabernacle game went," Hamm said. "We wouldn''t have been in such disarray if it wasn''t for the bus situation. It was just one of those things, but that made it more enjoyable after the fact because, after all of that, there has to be some drama in it."
Hamm said the school has talked with a mechanic and hopes to have the bus fixed this week. He said it is good that the bus broke down when it did and didn''t leave the team stranded on the side of the road somewhere between Columbus and Cottondale, Ala.
If the season didn''t go according to the script, the players certainly didn''t appear to be fazed.
On Friday, Hamm said sophomore Caleb Holliness stepped in for Ellis at defensive back and did a fine job. The Eagles needed someone to emerge because Tuscaloosa Christian came out in Victory Christian''s offense with two split ends, two slot backs, and a quarterback in the shotgun.
Holliness, who is 5-foot-7, was matched up with a 6-2 receiver. Hamm said Holliness overcame the height advantage to intercept a pass and break up several others. One of those pass breakups came early in the game when Holliness was in great position to break up a fourth-down pass in the end zone.
"That is good for the future because we graduate C.J. Bell (the other defensive back) and Landon is going to be back next season," Hamm said. "I believe Caleb is going to be able to handle that cornerback for us next year."
Holliness'' effort was just another example of players contributing in big games. He said all season the Eagles had players emerge to play key roles in victories.
"All year we talked about being ready if your number is called," Hamm said. "Caleb had performed really well for us on special teams, so it wasn''t like he hadn''t played at all, but he hadn''t gotten a chance on the defensive side. The guys did a real good job."
Jones (five catches, 133 yards, two touchdowns) didn''t let the clothing mix-up bother him as he went on to win game MVP honors.
Bell also had a solid night with four catches for 122 yards ad a touchdown.
Daylan Hairston paced the Eagles 92 yards rushing and a touchdown. He also caught a touchdown pass from Eaves.
Hamm said the team probably threw the ball more than it typically does because of Ellis'' injury. But he said Daylan Hairston picked up the slack for Ellis.
A third title in four years has Hamm optimistic about next season. The team will have to replace several key graduation losses, but he feels the team will have added confidence and even more desire to make it four titles in five seasons.
Hamm isn''t sure if the title will help the school, which has about 80 kids in the high school, increase its numbers. He said the football team went with about 21 players throughout the season. Despite its success, Hamm said the school is one of the smallest schools in the CFA.
But the Eagles have showed in the past few years that size isn''t the biggest factor in a football program''s success.
"We had 16, 17, or 18 contributors," Hamm said. "For the most part, everybody contributed some."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.