High School Football
Trinity Christian looks to snap three-game slide
by Chris Goltermann
Sometimes the numbers do lie when it comes to high school football, at least those that don’t show up on the scoreboard. Trinity Christian had twice as many first downs and held the ball for nearly 10 minutes longer than Mount de Sales last Friday night.
Yet the Lions went home from Macon with a 20-3 loss, their third straight following a four-game win streak.
Offensive struggles and allowing big plays — considering 150 of Mount de Sales’ 278 total yards came on its three touchdowns — have haunted Trinity worse than any ghoul or ghost this week leading up to tonight’s home game against Westminster-Augusta in a battle of Region 2-AAA’s remaining winless teams.
While a schedule that saw the Lions face all three Macon-area schools over consecutive weeks was no easy stretch, Trinity has played well enough at times to win games. It’s been as much a concern for head coach Chris Hanson and staff, who have seen plenty of effort from their players, but aren’t seeing any results in the win column.
At 4-4 and 0-3 in 2-AAA, the Lions are also running out of time if they wish to return to the GISA state playoffs for the second consecutive year. Though a loss tonight alone wouldn’t eliminate Trinity from contention, the Lions would miss the state playoffs if The Heritage School also defeats Tattnall Square.
“They understand what’s at stake these next two weeks,” Hanson said. “As a coaching staff, we’re going to prepare them as much as we can. It’s up to them to execute it. It comes down to the point now to which team wants it the most because every coaching staff is going to have their team ready to go. The next two weeks are about execution and effort.”
A victory would set up a potential showdown between the Hawks and Trinity at The Heritage School next week for the final playoff berth in 2-AAA. A year ago, both teams were battling for first place, with all three Macon-area powers able to reload in 2013.
After finishing 2-1 last year against Stratford, Tattnall Square and Mount de Sales, Trinity struggled to put together points while outscored 94-15 over three consecutive losses.
“The guys played hard, but we’ve got to eliminate the mental mistakes and the turnovers. If you can do that you give yourself a chance,” Hanson said of last week’s loss. “We let some plays get behind us on defense, we gave the ball away a couple of times and any time you do that your chances of winning go down, especially against fundamental teams.”
In many ways, Trinity did enough to put points on the scoreboard, marching down the field on 17 plays to open the game and using a fake-punt to keep possession while converting three attempts on fourth-down. The Lions were also 8 of 17 in third-down situations compared to Mount de Sales, which went just 4-for-11 combined.
Trinity has been forced to rely on a running back by committee mentality with senior J.D. Farlow hurt for much of the season, but managed 177 yards on 47 carries.
The Lions had 61 offensive snaps compared to just 39 by Mount de Sales, but still managed to trail 14-0 on two touchdowns that came on opposite ends of halftime. The Cavaliers converted a 52-yard pass with 1:02 left in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead and then needed one snap to convert off the second-half kickoff on Alex Sands’ 70-yard run.
“We were moving the ball. We just have to capitalize when we get into the red zone,” Hanson said, “and quit turning the ball over. Defensively we’ve got to be in position to make plays and I know that’s something that (coordinator J.P. Weaver) goes over every day in practice. We just have to execute our game plan.”
While dropping its first three Region 2-AAA games for the second consecutive year, Westminster has shown steady improvement since Trinity’s 30-7 victory in Augusta last year. Last Friday, it took a concerted effort for The Heritage School to pull out its first 2-AAA victory while holding off Westminster 25-20.
“They’re one of the most improved teams that I’ve seen,” said Hawks head coach Kevin Prisant this week of Westminster. “They play hard.”
Led by senior quarterback T.J. Strauss and 6-5 junior running back Joshua Jackson, the Wildcats have put together a solid balance on offense, gaining over 800 yards both rushing and passing through eight games. Of Strauss’ eight touchdown throws heading into last week, seven had gone to Connor Hearon.
Jackson, meanwhile, was nearing the 900-yard plateau heading into last week’s game against Heritage while averaging 7.8 yards per carry and 18 touchdowns. The Wildcats entered the season with seven returning starts on offense in its spread attack.
“They’re capable of putting points on the board,” said Hanson. “Coach Bryan’s done a good job with them and you can tell they’re more fundamentally sound. They understand the implications of these next two games, so they’ll be ready. It’s going to come down who makes the least amount of mistakes.”