September 19, 2018 11:18:49 AM
Chris McDonald could have sworn he was going to get tackled.
Brandon Moore thought so, too, as he watched his Victory Christian Academy teammate apparently run into a group of Tabernacle tacklers.
Somehow, though, McDonald found an escape route to a 50-yard kickoff return that sent Moore on a sprint down the sideline.
That was only the beginning of the fourth-quarter fireworks for VCA.
Moore completed a rally from a 10-point deficit in the final 3 minutes, 16 seconds when he hit Preston Kinard with a 10-yard touchdown pass to lift VCA to a 48-46 victory in a Christian Football Association game on Friday night in Columbus.
For their efforts, McDonald and Moore are The Dispatch's Prep Players of the Week.
Moore was 12-for-22 for 198 yards and three touchdown passes. He also had a 26-yard scoring run and a 1-yard touchdown run to help VCA (3-1, 1-1 CFA) rebound from a 52-0 loss to Russell Christian a week earlier.
VCA added a wrinkle on Moore's final pass to create confusion. The Eagles sent Jay Elmore up the middle to add a third receiver to the formation with Kenny Collier and Kinard. Moore said he had confidence someone would be open when VCA coach Chris Hamm called the play. Still, he said he needed to be patient to allow one of the receivers to come open. When he saw Kinard all alone on the corner, he said he had to control himself so he could put the proper touch on the football so he didn't overthrow his man.
"I just needed to slow down. I had to take my time because I didn't want the defense to pick up on it," Moore said. "I don't know if I was just nervous or it was adrenaline. All I know is I saw Preston and I told myself to slow down."
Moore said the victory was even sweeter because it was kind of like a "revenge" game from 2017, when VCA beat Tabernacle in the regular season but Tabernacle advanced to the playoffs on a tiebreaker and VCA missed the postseason.
McDonald helped put the Eagles in position for the victory by fielding a squib kick and making something happen. Moore laughed when he recounted his memory of the play. He said his emotions went from "Oh, no" to "There he goes" in a matter of seconds as McDonald used a block from Michael Tate to find the hole he needed to spring the game-changer.
"When I saw him return it I started sprinting to the other side because coach Hamm was down there," Moore said. "When they got the fumble, I don't think I have ever jumped that high in my life."
McDonald didn't need to jump over tacklers, but he had to break at least six tackles to stay on his feet and extend the play. He said he didn't even think he was going to get the ball. He thought Kinard, who was to his right, was going to get the ball, but it bounced past his teammate and he had to field it. Once McDonald had possession, he said he took half steps to give his teammates time to hold up their blocks enough for him to get a big enough space.
"I thought I was fixin' to get tackled because I got caught a good five times," McDonald said. "I just kept going. I couldn't quit. I didn't want to quit.
"I knew we could make plays. A lot of times I try to make something shake to give it time for a hole to open up and go. The team got on the same page when we realized we were back in the game."
Hamm said Tabernacle usually squibs kickoffs, but he said VCA changed its kick formation from 4-2-2 to 4-3-1 to prevent having a hole behind the front line. Just as McDonald didn't plan to run into traffic to start his journey to a score, the Eagles didn't envision the change would result in a touchdown.
McDonald said the touchdown return provide a "confidence boost" that the Eagles could rally. The defense then responded as Tate stripped the football free on a running play and Cole Harrell recovered it to set the stage for the offense's heroics.
Hamm still felt his team had the chance to come all the way back, even when he believed his players were going to fall on the onside kick. Sometimes, though, players have an impeccable sense of timing to make things happen, even when it looks like they're going to get tackled. That's when patience pays off, especially if you have a quarterback who doesn't lock onto a receiver and waits for a play to develop.
"It really wasn't a play we had in the book, but the way they were playing their defense if we had not sent Jay out there was a good possibility Preston would have been covered," Hamm said. "Releasing Jay, the linebacker did go to that. The guy who was trailing Kenny, there was kind of a collision there, and Kenny got across the field and they had him covered and Preston was open. It was a play that took a little longer to develop, but it was wide open."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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