Kirk Academy pulls away to beat CCA


Columbus Christian Academy’s Bryar Kemp had seven carries for 38 yards Friday.

Columbus Christian Academy’s Bryar Kemp had seven carries for 38 yards Friday. Photo by: David Miller/Special to The Dispatch


By David Miller, Special to The Dispatch



STEENS -- It's hard to draw positives from a 28-point loss, but first-year Columbus Christian Academy football coach Bill Beck has plenty for Monday's drawing board. 


Beck's CCA Rams trailed Kirk Academy 14-13 at the halftime Friday in their home opener, but two fumbles led to two scores and helped the Raiders pull away for a 41-13 victory. 


One of those fumbles came in the fourth quarter, with CCA facing third-and-goal at the Kirk Academy 1-yard line. The Rams ran senior Isaiah Cooper wide on a toss power, but he was hit and fumbled in the backfield. What could have been a one-score game turned into a 34-13 deficit five plays later. 


"It was backbreaking," Cooper said. "But you just have to keep your head in it and bounce back. That's what we tried to do." 


Beck didn't second-guess the call -- the Rams had success with it throughout the night -- and said the play and result are parts of getting his younger players to "buy into what we're doing." For three quarters, the Rams showed the toughness needed to overcome depth and inexperience they face annually, he said. 


CCA (1-1) forced four turnovers, including a two forced fumbles by Cooper and Bryar Kemp to thwart drives by Kirk Academy (1-1) inside the CCA 30. Jordan Meek answered the first score of the game -- a 59-yard touchdown pass by Kirk Academy's Alex Mcdurmon -- with an 85-yard kickoff return. The Rams broke up five passes, and quarterback Dakota Shaw threw a touchdown pass one play after a holding penalty. 


"I think they know that, playing up against a AAA school, we had a good bit on our plate," Beck said. "If you're going to get better, you're going to have to beat people that are bigger and better than you. We welcomed the chance to play them." 


The Rams, though, turned the ball over four times and struggled to mount consistent drives. Beck said his offense must block better to establish the run and to create play-action opportunities in the passing game. 


"We had two big turnovers, and the game exploded on us a bit," Beck said. "We just made too many mistakes to win." 


Beck's defense was stingy at times -- linebackers Cooper and Bryar Kemp combined for five tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles -- and carried the team through three quarters. 


"They're the catalysts of our defense," Beck said. "They run well, make good reads, fill, scrape, and do all the right things you want a linebacker to do. They're in their lane assignments, scrape to the ball, and make a lot of other plays, too. They do a great job." 


Beck will lean on Kemp, a junior, and Cooper, a senior, to galvanize players who became frustrated and unfocused through adversity. 


"That's on me and the seniors," Cooper said. "We have to pick it up." 


Although he has seen signs of players buying in, the team's collective attitude must improve, Beck said. But he won't fault the players for past experiences influencing their reactions to negative plays or the play of their teammates. Right now, he said there's a lot to address. 


"As coaches, if you stay in it long enough, you're going to run into a period when you're down," Beck said. "It's hard to fault them. The kids, they don't know what's going on; all they know is they're not winning, and they're frustrated with it. You have to handle it the right way, teach them how to group up and be a man. That's what we're focusing on, and we've gained a lot of ground."



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