Prep Football: Trinity Christian looking for big finish at TattnallBy CHRIS GOLTERMANN
“Moral” and “victory” are two words that may no longer apply in Trinity Christian’s football program after last Friday’s game at Stratford Academy.
A year after allowing 62 points to the Eagles, the Lions came a touchdown from ruining the longtime GISA-school’s homecoming festivities in a 22-16 loss in Macon.
It still felt like a loss, though.
The game ended after Trinity Christian moved the ball inside the Stratford 20-yard line for a final time before throwing an interception near the Eagles’ 3-yard line on a ball that was inches from hitting the turf incomplete.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Trinity Christian head coach Chris Hanson said. “I thought our guys fought hard. Towards the end we drove the ball deep on them.”
At 3-3 and 0-1 in Region 2-AAA heading into Friday’s trip to play another prestigious private school program in Macon, Tattnall Square, Hanson felt like the team missed out a bit on an opportunity for a signature win for the second-year 11-man program last week.
But he equally agreed that last Friday’s loss could have equally been big for his team’s confidence.
“I hope it does. We’ve try tried to talk to them about not being discouraged,” he said. “That’s why we have the twenty-four hour rule. We come back Monday and forget it. We have four more opportunities in front of us. I’d really like for that last game against Heritage [School] to mean something for us when it comes to the playoffs.”
The optimist in Hanson saw good performances on both sides of the ball against Stratford last week. Junior Dee Snelling had arguably his best overall individual effort, catching a pair of touchdown passes and intercepting an Eagles pass.
Senior Jay Warner gained a game-high 85 yards rushing as Trinity’s defense held Stratford’s top rusher, Austin Simmons, to 13 yards before halftime.
“We did a lot of good things,” Hanson said. “But I still don’t think we’ve put together a complete game yet like I think we’re capable. This is a good group of guys. We’ve just got to be ready to play this week. I expect it’s going to be the same kind of game.”
Tattnall, last year’s Class AAA state champions, has struggled a bit to maintain the momentum from an 11-2 season in 2011.
But the 2-5 Trojans are coming off their first contested victory of the year against Westminster of Augusta. A convincing 49-20 win in the Region 2-AAA opener came just at the right time for legendary head coach Barney Hester, who has guided the program to 11 state titles since 1998 during a 38-year tenure with the school.
A young Trojans team has stayed close with opponents all year, much like Trinity.
None of Tattnall’s five losses have been by more than 10 points including a pair of one-point defeats against Southland in overtime and Deerfield Windsor. The Trojans other win comes from a forfeit with Arlington.
“Our kids never felt like they were out of any game because all of those games were just so close,” Hester told the Macon Telegraph. “It wasn’t like we were getting beat by 20 and just didn’t have a chance. The kids have responded to that, and they have worked hard. We’re just so young that it has taken them some time to learn what we want them to do, and now they feel more comfortable with that, and they’re playing better.”
Quarterback Lane Watson leads Tattnall with 433 yards and nine touchdowns on 96 carries while teammate Jonathan Ward has 411 and a score on 63 touches. While predominantly a run-first team, Lane has also thrown for 441 yards on 24 of 71 passing with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Ward has been Watson’s top target, catching six balls for 143 yards and three of the four scores.
Senior Tyler Ward (6-2, 220) at linebacker leads the Tattnall defense.
“Wwhen you look at a coach like Barney Hester, you can expect them to come ready to play,” Hanson said. “If there’s a pride of our league, it’s Tattnall. That’s what every program strives to be.”
If Trinity has an advantage, though, it could be in experience. The Trojans lost 17 seniors from its 2011 state championship team while the Lions added at least three seniors to the lineup go with last year’s seven juniors that experienced a 40-7 loss at home to Tattnall.
So far, Trinity has three losses against common opponents from the 2011 season, showing improvements in each effort. The Lions opened with a 14-6 defeat to unbeaten John Milledge a year after falling 35-13. They led both Flint River and Stratford at halftime, trimming margins of defeat by 12 and 40 points, respectively from 2011 efforts.
The difference between winning and losing, however, may come down to consistency in all three phases during all four quarters.
“Right now, we’ve got to learn to win,” Hanson said. “We’ve got to learn to have that winning mentality. We just have to go out there and do it.”