Prep Football: Two-time state champs up next for Trinity
By CHRIS GOLTERMANN
There wasn’t a game for Trinity Christian’s football program during a 2-8 season in 2011 where it had a legitimate argument that the better team didn’t win on a Friday night. That’s with a heavy emphasis on “legitimate.”
That may have changed last week, however.
Trinity Christian held the Wildcats to 122 yards of total offense and for the fourth consecutive week, the Lions defense yielded six or less points a year after allowing over 36 points per game in 2011. But two costly turnovers and a penalty-filled performance outweighed the good in a disappointing 20-9 loss.
Flint River (3-2) converted a fumbled punt return in Trinity’s end and then recovered a high snap that sailed past quarterback Connor Adams for another score for the only points of the second half.
Heading into their final non-division opponent of the regular season on Friday before a bye week, the Lions may like nothing better than to take a victory into the break and the eventual start of what expects to be an intense playoff battle in GISA Region 2-AAA.
“Facts are if you lose the turnover battle, it goes to tremendous odds that you lose the game,” Trinity Christian head coach Chris Hanson said. “If we don’t give up those fourteen points, it’s a 9-6 ballgame because the defense is playing well. We were moving the ball on offense. It’s just getting them past that point.”
As far as confidence goes, a trip to face defending two-time Class AA state champion Piedmont Academy may give the Lions the test they need heading into 2-AAA play.
Despite a 1-4 start, the Cougars have lost three games to opponents with a combined record of 12-5-1 capped off by a 46-41 loss to last year’s other finalist Edmund Burke, which earned a bit of revenge from last year’s championship game, won by Piedmont on running back Peter Lawson’s touchdown with 15 seconds left.
Lawson leads a much smaller group of returning starters for the Cougars, but has carried the offense so far. The senior entered last week’s game against Edmund Burke with 504 yards rushing and two touchdowns while posting four consecutive 100-yard games to open the season.
Sophomore quarterback Hunter Knox has stepped in to run Piedmont’s option attack with teammate Gaven Edge his top receiver while also gaining carries with Nick Dimsdale.
Lawson is an equally hard-hitting standout at linebacker for Piedmont, which plays in Region 4-AA with Dominion Christian and Flint River, Trinity’s two previous opponents.
“You can’t say enough about their program and what they’ve done. 26 [wins] in a row. They’re very, very experienced when it comes to close games because of the state championships, the playoffs,” Hanson said of Piedmont and coach Rhett Farmer, now in his fourth season with the Cougars. “They know how to handle adversity. Anytime you play a team like this their record may show a down year, but they’re not in a down year.”
Trinity Christian's defense hopes to keep the Lions in this week’s game as well. Against Flint River, the Lions finished with at least three sacks, including a pair by Jay Warner, while fellow senior Drew Gibson’s tackle in the end zone forced a safety for Trinity in the first half.
“I think we’re getting there. I think Coach [J.P.] Weaver has his guys believing in the system. There’s still areas where we need to sure up some coverage or better tackling and technique,” Hanson said. “But I’m a firm believer that if we strengthen up those areas, I think it gives us an opportunity to stop some offenses.”
Hanson equally saw positives in the team’s offense and special teams, despite the pair of turnovers. Penalties, however, were not only costly as far as field position, but equally caused a lack of focus.
“We’ve done well up until the other night of being mentally prepared. We just got focused on the wrong things and lost our focus when things didn’t go our way,” Hanson said. “The game wasn’t lost by penalties. We’ve still got to play the game. I think we lost a little bit of focus as a staff and as players and we learned from that game. You learn from each experience.”