By Mike Hastings
The Lions of Christ Presbyterian Academy were hoping for another rematch with Alcoa in the Blue Cross Bowl in a fight for the state title in TSSAA Division 1 Class 3A football, but unfortunately their hopes were dashed by Liberty Tech Magnet in the semifinals.
The Lions battled the entire game, but in the end, two fourth quarter interceptions were returned for touchdowns, crushing CPA hopes and giving Liberty a 33-20 victory.
The Lions started the scoring with senior J.T. Gilbert’s field goal early in the first quarter. That’s all the offense either team would muster in the period as CPA led 3-0 going into the second.
Both team’s defenses dominated play until late in the second. Liberty’s quarterback Cory Newble was able to punch it in from nine yards out to give the Crusaders a 7-3 lead.
The Lions were unable to move the ball on the following possession and were once again forced to punt.
Liberty again moved down the field and on this drive, Newble was able to connect with Rodney Castille for a 20-yard touchdown, giving the Crusaders a 13-3 lead with less than a minute left in the half.
The Lions kicked off to start the second half. But Liberty coughed up the ball and CPA recovered.
Lion running back James Deaton then found senior Andrew Howard on an option pass, good for 32 yards and a touchdown, cutting the lead to 13-10.
CPA forced Liberty to punt on their next two possession in the third setting up the offense again.
This time Lion quarterback Ryan Eledge found Howard for another touchdown and a 17-13 lead.
After the ensuing kickoff, CPA again forced a fumble deep in Liberty territory. They were able to convert the turnover to another Gilbert field goal, extending their lead to 20-13, early in the fourth quarter.
But Liberty wasn’t giving up. They drove the ball down field and tied the score with eight minutes to go 20-20.
On the Lions’ next possession, Newble stepped in front of a Eledge pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown and a 26-20 lead.
CPA took over at the 13 yard line to start the next drive, but unfortunately for the Lions, Liberty was able to pick off another pass and return in for a touchdown - and the final score of the game.
Deaton finished with 91 yards rushing and 32 passing to lead CPA
Lions KO'd by TO's in State Semifinals