COOKEVILLE – The Christ Presbyterian Academy football nearly pulled off the complete circle showcasing how a team can transform and look completely different and better by the end of the season with the right attitude and effort.
Playing in the Lions second consecutive TSSAA BlueCross Bowl Division II-AA championship at Tennessee Tech, CPA battled top-ranked Evangelical Christian School before a late drive from ECS propelled the Eagles to a narrow 17-14 win Thursday – a stark contrast to the 30-6 CPA loss at ECS in the season opener in August.
“That first game, they dominated us,” CPA senior Jarrett Mathews said. “Thirteen weeks later, or whatever, we are a new football team.
"Obviously it hurts. It’s not the result we wanted, but I’m so proud of our guys. … Midseason, when we were 0-4, no one ever though that we would be here today … we kept fighting. I’ve never been part of a team with more resilience and more grit than these guys.”
CPA completed a perfect season in 2018 with an unbeaten record and winning the state title. They lost the bulk of that team – 31 seniors – and debuted Aug. 23 with plenty of new faces, including sophomore quarterback Cade Law. Against one of the toughest schedules in the state, the Lions lost their first four games and sat at 1-5 before winning six of seven to reach the championship for the second year in a row.
“This 2019 football team is going to be remembered for a lot of things,” CPA coach Ingle Martin said. “One thing I am most proud of is these kids believed in each other.
“This is a resilient, courageous group of kids that are going to be tremendous people in our society. They are going going to be great husbands. They are going to be great dads, because of what we saw them do in football. This year with their backs against the wall to continue fighting, being 0-4, 1-5, everyone saying it’s a rebuilding year, whatever, our kids never listened to it and they believed in each other.”
Law nearly matched his production in that season opener at ECS in the first quarter Thursday when he broke through the line of scrimmage, spun and blasted though the secondary for a 60-yard touchdown after ECS settled for 40-yard field goal to open the scoring. Following Mac Seibert’s PAT, the Lions led 7-3 with 4:49 to play in the first.
Both teams struggled to hold onto the football, especially early on. The game included seven fumbles and two interceptions.
ECS regained the lead late in the first quarter when Jaylen Greenwood scored on a 17-yard run to cap a quick 4-play drive that covered 79 yards with 1:05 to play in the opening frame.
Law guided the Lions on a 10-play drive that spanned the end of the first and into second, but Andrew Whitley had the ball poked loose despite a second-effort surge that would have resulted in a first down. William Arthur recovered for ECS – one of three fumble recoveries for the Eagles. CPA took it right back when Sam Ellis intercepted a pass on the ensuing drive and three plays later Law fired a 21-yard strike to Josh Roper on a sneak for the tight end. The Lions led 14-10 with 7:26 left in the first half. The score stayed until the fourth.
VIDEO --> CPA quarterback Cade Law fires a 21-yard touchdown to Josh Roper midway through the 2nd quarter of the DII-AA football championship. Full highlights, photos, statistics & story to come! CPA leads ECS 14-10 at the half. (@cpalions @CPALionsSports @CPAFootball) pic.twitter.com/oe2jHJA8zv— Charles Pulliam (@cspulliam) December 5, 2019
“We started off hot and played great, but a couple mistakes hurt,” said Law, who finished 10-of-20 for 135 yards to go with 14 carries for 85 on the ground and the two TDs.
In the third, Bo Chance recovered a ECS fumble deep in Eagles territory in the opening minutes, but just two plays later CPA coughed it up on ECS 12-yard line. Seibert later missed a 41-yard field goal attempt in the only scoring opportunity in the frame.
ECS stopped CPA on 4th-and-2 from the Eagles 33 to open the fourth and then burned 5:43 of clock with an 11-play, 67-yard drive to score the only TD of the second half. Greenwood rushed for 39 of his 99 yards on the drive and Eagles quarterback Jacob Hatcher capped the drive with a 1-yard score.
Hatcher fired a pass to Arthur on 4th-and-6 from the CPA 7 prior to the TD. The pass appeared to hit the ground before being gathered by Arthur.
On CPA’s final drive, a similar miss confirmed by replays wiped away a potential game-winning interception and gave the Lions another opportunity. Law had three incompletions and scrambled once on the Lions final possession, which began with 68 seconds to play.
CPA’s defense gave the Lions a chance when they stopped ECS on 4th-and-2 at the ECS 47. Cade Reynolds and George Collier pushed Hatcher back for a 2-yard loss on the play.
“Adversity happens in life. Adversity happens in a football game. We are all human,” Martin said. “I made really bad play calls tonight. I did a bad job of coaching. Our kids, they did so much more this year than three or four plays in the fourth quarter.
“I’m extremely proud of them.”
For the Christ Presbyterian Academy football team, the struggles of September seem like a di…
CPA finished the season 7-7. ECS closed 13-1.
“Every class, they are going to be remembered some way,” Mathews said. “I think we will be remembered for a rough start and fighting back and having perseverance and just being resilient. I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of our legacy and how we will be remembered.”
Evangelical Christian School 17, Christ Presbyterian Academy 14, Division II-AA Championship
At Tennessee Tech in Cookeville on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019
CPA – 7 7 0 0 – 14
ECS – 10 0 0 7 – 17
1Q 6:28 E – Evan Stookey 40 FG;
1Q 4:49 C – Cade Law 60 run (Mac Seibert kick);
1Q 1:04 E – Jaylen Greenwood 17 run (Stookey kick);
2Q 7:27 C – Josh Roper 21 pass from Law (Seibert kick);
4Q 6:05 E – Jacob Hatcher 1 run (Stookey kick).
Team Statistics (C E)
First Downs – 14 15
Total Offense – 312 245
Fumbles (Number-Lost) – 6-3 1-1
Penalties (Number-Yards) – 6-48 2-25
Possession Time – 22:18 25:42
Third Down Conversions – 5-of-12 1-of-12
Fourth Down Conversions – 0-of-3 1-of-3
Sacks (Number-Yards) – 3-14 2-6
CPA 38-177-1 (Law 14-91-1, Tyler Reid 12-49, Andrew Whitely 5-25, Maverick Rodriguez 6-16, Langston Patterson 1-2); ECS 43-138-2 (Greenwood 19-99-1, Marcus McMeans 15-49, Austin Hill 1-(-2), Jacob Hatcher 7-(-7).
CPA 10-20-0-1 for 135 yards (Law 10-20-0-1 for 135); ECS 4-16-2-0 for 107 yards (Hatcher 4-16-2-0 for 107).
CPA 10-135-1 (Rodriguez 6-69, Roper 2-49-1, Reid Williford 2-17); ECS 4-107-0 (Carson Gagnon 2-47, Hill 1-51, William Arthur 1-9).