It took two and a half years, a lot of hard work, determination and a willingness to keep the faith, but the First Presbyterian Christian Academy football team finally was rewarded for its patience Friday night. The Highlanders beat Crisp Academy, 18-6, and notched the first win in program history.
“I told you this year there was a change a coming,” FPCA head football coach Terry Middleton said. “I am so proud of you right now. Now you know what it feels like. You cracked that egg … it took you two and a half years but you did it. It wasn’t the coaching staff, it was all you.”
Middleton and assistant coach William Herdman hugged the players, and FPCA athletic director Shane Smith and Principal Shannon Hickey shook their hands and congratulated the boys, who left it all on the field for four quarters and finally finished on top.
Middleton told the boys they played with perfect effort. The game was a challenge, especially after Crisp Academy tied the game at 6-6 going into halftime.
At the start of the third quarter, the FPCA boys took their first lead in the season, making it a 12-6. Halfway through the fourth quarter, the boys scored again. Despite missing the extra point, FPCA went up 18-6, and that was enough for the win.
Highlander Dylan Stewart scored a touchdown on an 81-yard kick return. Later, he threw a pass to Michael Burnett for another FPCA touchdown. The FPCA boys pushed forward on another drive on the rushing legs of Jimmy Ouyang, who broke open on two long runs to keep the drive alive.
Highlander Bolden Crane came in as the Highlanders’ quarterback while Stewart took a quick breather.
FPCA made it to the 13-yard line and Crane launched a pass to the corner of the end zone. Burnett had a defender in front of him, but he reached over the defender’s head and grabbed the ball for a dramatic touchdown catch.
Crisp Academy tried to push forward on its ensuing drive, but Highlander Frederick Heaggans slammed through the center and crashed on the opposing team’s quarterback for a 12-yard loss on a sack.
On another Wildcat offensive drive, the running back drove through the center only to be wrapped up by Highlander Austin Hendrix. When the Wildcats tried to pass, Stewart deflected two consecutive throws. And when Crisp tried running to the outside, Isiah Dickey, Burnett and Joshua Armour were there to make stops.
The FPCA boys were at the 3-yard line looking to score another touchdown when the buzzer sounded the end of the game.
The Highlander spectators erupted into cheers and fans rushed the field.
Middleton advised the boys to savor the moment and then told them it was time to move on.
“You don’t know whether you want to laugh, cry, celebrate or do cartwheels, but I tell you what — come Monday, I will tell you what you will need to do, and that is get ready for the next one,” Middleton said. “This is done. No more … we aren’t anyone else’s floor mat anymore.”