Experience makes difference for Trinity
For the last two years, Trinity Christian and The Heritage School have met to close out the regular season. Last night, they saw their annual tilt take a huge step toward being a full-blown rivalry.
With a trip to the Division 1-AAA playoffs at stake for the winner and the end of the season for the loser, it was already an emotional game for both sides. The intensity and emotion was even higher for the Hawks, who were also playing with heavy hearts, after holding a memorial dedication to late teammate Tyler Henson Thursday and were playing Friday to honor him on senior night.
However, in the end, it was experience that won out. Led by the running of junior Diego Henriquez and the aggressive play on offense and defense from quarterback/defensive back Daniel Shoates, the Lions scored once early and once in the final minutes to hold off the feisty young Hawks, 12-0, on the their home field.
'It's an exciting win for our program,' Lions head coach Chris Hanson said. 'They played extremely hard. They knew they had to play hard. We knew Heritage was going to be ready. They are a young team, but they've got a lot of fight.'
The win propelled the Lions, 6-4, into the playoffs and a meeting next Friday in Perry against 1-AAA champion Westfield. With the loss, the Hawks see their season end at 3-7.
'Somebody's going to look at wins and losses and is going to say it was a bad year,' Hawks coach Kevin Prisant said. 'If you look at the development of where these kids were when we went to camp and where they are now, it's A-plus across the board. They have grown up on the field and off the field.'
The Lions scored on their second drive of the game. They started at their own 29 and marched down the field in seven plays. Henriquez carried the ball three times in the drive and gained 15, 1, and 13 yards. While his running was key, the biggest moment came on the third play of the drive. Shoates passed deep down the left sideline and the play seemed to be cleanly broken up by the Hawks' defender. A flag was thrown and a highly-questionable pass interference penalty was called to give the Lions a first down and keep the drive alive.
Shoates seemed to be ignited by the call. He connected with Jared Farlow for a 19-yard gain to the Hawks' 26. Then, after a 13-yard burst by Henriquez, Shoates hooked up with Connor Owen for a 13-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
Shoates was 6 of 12 passing for 74 yards and the one touchdown. He ran the ball 11 times for 35 yards and one touchdown. He also had two interceptions on defense, the second of which set up his scoring run.
Henriquez led all players in the game in terms of offensive production. He was the Lions' go-to guy on the ground. He carried the ball 23 times for a hard-fought 81 yards.
'Diego ran hard tonight, the line blocked hard tonight,' Hanson said. 'It's hard to single out one player, because it was such a team effort.' The scored stood at 6-0 through three quarters until the Lions closed out the game with a 3-yard run by Shoates with 2:13 to play in the fourth quarter. In the middle, however, both teams had their chances and both defenses rose to the occasion.
Early in the second quarter, the Hawks came up with one of the biggest stops of the game. The Lions were driving at the Hawks' 26. They had been carried to that point by the legs of Henriquez, who ran the ball for 5 of 6 plays. Facing a second and 10 at the 26, Shoates' pass was intercepted by senior Caleb Woodruff and Heritage took over at the 33.
Just when the momentum seemed to shift the Hawks' way after the interception, Shoates was able to pick off Heritage signal-caller Brad Macke. This gave the Lions a first down at the Hawks' 34. Aided by a holding penalty against Trinity, the Hawks' defense was able to stand tall again. They ultimately drove the Lions back to the 43 and forced a punt.
Prisant said he knew coming in that his teams' defense would have to have a big night.
'We knew that our defense was going to have to win us the game,' Prisant said. 'They tried as hard as they could. We were looking for that big play and we thought we had it. But our youth is going to show up in tight games.'
Matthew Burns was the Hawks' top offensive threat. He ran the ball seven times for 38 yards. Mackey ran 13 times for 24 yards and faced swarming pressure all night when trying to pass.
'What most teams play with on Thursday night, we play with on Friday night,' Prisant said. 'We are dealing with that kind of youth. But as far as the overall season, If you look at wins and losses, it's not going to look good. If you look at the stuff that matters, the stuff that really matters in the grand scheme, then we get 100s across the board.'
Hanson gave credit to the Hawks for giving them a run for their money.
'We preached intensity all week,' Hanson said. 'We knew it was going to be a slobberknocker between the lines and I was proud that we did what we were asked to do, our players did what they were expected to do. It's just a great win for our program.'
Lions 12, Hawks 0
Trinity Christian 6 0 0 6-12 Heritage School 0 0 0 0-0 1st Q T Daniel Shoates 13 pass to Conner Owen (kick failed); 4:31 4th Q T Shoates 3 run (2 point pass failed), 2:13