For the Christ Presbyterian Academy football team, the struggles of September seem like a distant memory, while the hopes of winning another state championship are now within reach.
The Lions, who captured the Division II-AA title last year, are headed back to Cookeville for the Blue Cross Bowl after posting a 24-7 home victory against Lipscomb Academy on Friday night in the state semifinals.
Tyler Reid rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including an explosive 66-yard scoring run on the third snap of the game, to help fuel the victory for the Lions (7-6), who have rebounded from an 0-4 start by surging down the stretch and going undefeated in November.
Quarterback Cade Law compiled 132 yards on 13 carries, and Reid Williford had a pivotal 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter.
The Lions will face Evangelical Christian School in the championship game in two weeks. CPA fell to ECS, 30-6, in the season opener on Aug. 23. The Eagles, who defeated Battle Ground Academy 13-9 in the quarterfinals, advanced to the championship with a 45-24 win Friday over Lausanne in the semis.
“It feels amazing to be going back to Cookeville,” said Williford, a sophomore wide out and defensive back. “The fight that we’ve shown, just fighting the whole season, I’m speechless about it. It’s been another level in terms of what we’ve been putting into our practices. And it has paid off.”
Reid’s early touchdown run, coupled with Mac Seibert’s 20-yard field goal, enabled the Lions to carry a 10-0 lead into the half. Lipscomb Academy (7-6), coached by former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, scored a touchdown on its opening drive of the third quarter to cut CPA’s lead to 10-7, but Willford returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and ignited the cowbell-clanking CPA crowd.
The CPA defense delivered a stout performance — including holding Lipscomb without a first down in the first half and then producing a critical defensive stand inside the CPA five-yard line in the third quarter — to help the Lions add another chapter to their turn-around story.
Facing a highly-challenging schedule, CPA owned a 1-5 record on Sept. 27. Since then, the Lions have reeled off six wins in the past seven games, and they now stand at the doorstep of another state title.
CPA head coach Ingle Martin said the season has been an eventful journey, and said his team has continued to grow stronger and galvanize since the rough start.
“There’s been a lot of water under the bridge, so to speak,” said a smiling Martin after the win. “The biggest thing for us is these seniors. The way this football team has come together is really remarkable. This team is going to be remembered for being courageous. From being 0-4 and 1-5 and having everyone talking about all the kids who graduated — that was tough. But these kids just showed up every Monday and worked all week long, all season long.”
The Lions compiled 333 rushing yards in the win. CPA’s Law attempted just three passes in the game, completing one.
Langston Patterson, who made a series of game-changing plays in the win, said the Lions have simply stayed the course, regardless of their record.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Patterson. “But coach always says, you can’t allow yourself to get too high and you can’t allow yourself to get too low. And that’s what we tried to do.”
Patterson was credited with a team-high eight tackles, Williford had five and Scott Shipman had four.
Patterson delivered what was arguably the biggest play of the game. With CPA owning a 17-7 lead late in the third quarter, and Lipscomb Academy facing fourth-and-goal at CPA’s 1-yard line, Patterson broke into the backfield and tackled the Mustangs' Jayden Lyles for a loss.
“I give all the credit to the defensive line,” said Patterson. “They really shut down the play up front, and I just saw a gap where I could get (into the backfield) and make a play.”
Following that defensive stand, CPA was able to run about six minutes off the clock before eventually punting. On Lipscomb Academy’s ensuing drive, CPA’s Maverick Rodriguez came up with an interception by making a juggling catch, and the Lions took advantage of favorable field position to put together a six-play, 24-yard drive that resulted in Reid’s second touchdown of the game. His eight-yard run with 2:34 remaining in the fourth quarter gave CPA a 24-7 lead and sealed the victory.
Martin said regardless of what happens in the championship game, these Lions have made their mark.
“This team will be remembered for the way they fought, and the way they handled adversity when everyone was counting them out,” said Martin. “We’re very excited to have two more weeks with them, and excited to be going to Cookeville.”
After a couple explosive plays early, Friday’s Division II-AA quarterfinal at Evangelical Ch…
Christ Presbyterian Academy 24, Lipscomb Academy 7, Division II-AA Semifinal
Lipscomb Academy – 0 0 7 0 — 7
CPA – 7 3 7 7 — 24
1Q (10:31) CPA – Tyler Reid 66 run (Mac Seibert kick);
2Q (6:58) CPA – Seibert 20 FG;
3Q (6:34) LA – Jayden Lyles 1 run (Mason Long kick);
3Q (6:28) CPA – Reid Williford 84 kickoff return (Seibert kick);
4Q (2:24) CPA – Reid 7 run (Seibert kick).
First downs: Lipscomb Academy 13, CPA 16
Rushing: Lipscomb Academy 22-87, CPA 50-333
Passing yards: Lipscomb Academy 90, CPA 1
Passes: Lipscomb Academy 12-20-2, CPA 1-3-0
Penalties: Lipscomb Academy 4-32, CPA 7-39
Fumbles/Lost: Lipscomb Academy 0/0, CPA 3/2
Punts-Ave: Lipscomb Academy 6-47, CPA 4-35.2
Lipscomb Academy — Jayden Lyles 15-75, Jackson Harmon 1-1, Luther Richesson 5-11; CPA — Cade Law 13-132, Tyler Reid 15-126, Maverick Rodriguez 4-13, Will Hays 1-3, Andrew Whitely 12-54, Langston Patterson 5-5.
Lipscomb Academy — Jackson Harmon 4-19, Daniel Green 1-5, Chase Allen 1-2, Kyle McNamara, 3-37, Shamar Porter 3-27; CPA — Maverick Rodriguez 1-1.
Lipscomb Academy — Luther Richesson 12-20-2-0 — 90; CPA — Cade Law 1-3-0-0 — 1.