Two small private schools, both looking for their first win of the season, went head to head Friday night as First Presbyterian Christian Academy hosted St. Andrews at Long Bell Stadium.
Both teams had small rosters with kids playing both sides of the ball, but for 48 minutes of game time, the players left it all out on the gridiron. In the end, the visiting Lions scored the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute left for a 35-28 win.
The Highlanders took the lead first when Herbert Roberts picked off a Lions pass, DeAngelo Streeter had a first-down run to set the Highlanders up inside the Lions 5. Domonique Kirkley then dumped a short pass to George Mitchell for the Highlanders’ first touchdown. Phillip Swindell attempted the extra point, but the Lions blocked it.
The Lions mounted a drive and were nearing the end zone when Roberts made another interception to close the first quarter.
The Lions struggled for most of the first quarter, fumbling the ball three times, muffing the kick return and being pushed back by penalties. In the second quarter, however, it was the Highlanders who struggled with penalties — one of which erased a touchdown pass from Roberts to Swindell.
But a few minutes later, on third-and-15, Chris Guilfo caught a pass and ran the ball in from 34 yards out for a touchdown. The Highlanders led, 13-0, when the Lions started their comeback.
The visitors started at their own 38 and methodically ran the ball downfield, scoring a touchdown but missing the extra point. Trailing 13-6, the Lions opened the passing game to make it to the Highlanders 8. That set up a Lions touchdown and 2-point conversion as the half closed with the visitors up, 14-13.
The Lions handed the ball to Taylor Faulk, who scored on a short run to open the third quarter and gave St. Andrews a 21-14 lead.
Kirkley ran the ball for the Highlanders, but the home team was pushed back for a holding call. Roberts scrambled on fourth down to give the Highlanders a new set of downs. Streeter then scored on a 15-yard-run to make the score 21-20.
But the Lions got inside the Highlanders 25-yard-line on a punt return and scored a touchdown on a 10-yard-run. Highlander Matt Lormis blocked the extra point, which left the Lions up, 27-20.
The Highlanders were pinned inside their own 3, but Kirkley found a hole and ran for a first down. At the start of the fourth quarter, Kirkley drew a roughing-the-kicker penalty while punting. That spurred the Highlanders, who put together a scoring drive capped by a touchdown run by Kirkley. After the 2-point conversion, FPCA led, 28-27.
Shortly after, Roberts intercepted another St. Andrews pass and returned it for an apparent touchdown, but a holding penalty negated the score and brought the play back to the 30. The ’Landers couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone.
The Lions got the ball back with 6:47 left in regulation. The Lions again methodically ran the ball and ate up the clock, driving down to the Highlanders 3. The Lions scored a touchdown with 36.4 seconds left, and then recovered an onside kick to seal the win.
Highlander coach Andy Yanzetich said his players should feel good with putting 28 points on the board.
“I just feel that each week we are getting bigger and better,” he said. “Everything came down to the last second, and that is what we want, and these gave it everything they had. They were on the sidelines, wanting to get into the game.”
Kirkley and Roberts combined for two touchdowns, and Roberts ended the night with four picks for the Highlanders defense. Yanzetich said he knew they were two talented athletes who would bring out the best in the rest of the team.
“They are both playing defense, and we need them on both sides of the ball, so it helps up out,” he said. “At first, we thought we would throw with one and run with the other, but they are both doing both at the same time. Domonique threw a touchdown pass today and he ran great today, and Herbert got one escape and got away with a pass and run today.”
Swindell punted and, on three occasions, made tackles downfield. Unlike the first game against Bethesda, fatigue wasn’t a factor until much later in the game.
“I think it didn’t happen in the first half; it started happening towards the second half,” Yanzetich said. “The other side was a good team, and they kept pounding away, and I think that hurt us a little bit in the fourth quarter.”
The Highlanders, 0-2, hit the road next week to play at Curtis Baptist.