Christ Church, Lilliputian-like as usual, stayed within striking distance of a much bigger Johnsonville team for 43 minutes Friday afternoon at Benedict College.
Then, in a 2-minute, 10-second span, the Cavaliers struck for 17 points, a spurt that enabled Christ Church to post a 27-18 victory in the Class A Division I football state championship game at Charles Johnson Stadium.
The Cavaliers won their 26th consecutive game and their second straight state title, finished at 14-0 and completed the first perfect season in school history.
“It’s a great way to finish,” Christ Church senior defensive tackle Andrew Harrill said.
Christ Church coach Don Frost said Johnsonville was “by far the biggest team” his Cavaliers had seen this season, and they needed a big, come-from-behind effort to overcome the Golden Flashes.
Christ Church quarterback Demetrius Anthony scored on a 1-yard run and added a two-point conversion run that tied the score at 18-18 with 5:15 remaining.
After the Cavaliers stopped the Golden Flashes on three plays, Christ Church benefited when the snap went over the punter’s head and into the end zone. The result was a safety that gave the Cavaliers a 20-18 lead.
Quan White returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards for a touchdown, and the Cavaliers had a 27-18 lead with 3:05 left.
“That was a game-changer,” Anthony said.
That sealed the victory for Christ Church, which won the Class A Division II title a year ago.
“Our defense did a heck of a job in the first half,” Frost said. “Our offense came through in the second half. It was a total team effort. They played well. They deserve it. They worked their tails off all year long.”
On Friday, they did so once again despite the disparity in size.
“If you’d have put us on a balance, we’re going way, way up, because that other team’s coming down,” said Larry Frost, Don’s brother and the Cavaliers’ offensive coordinator. “They were huge.”
“It was kind of rough at the beginning,” Cavaliers running back-defensive back Alex Conner said. “But once we knew what we were up against, we made some adjustments and we were able to settle down.”
Johnsonville (13-1), employing its wishbone attack, rushed for 305 yards but had minus-5 yards passing.
Christ Church, in its customary spread offense, struggled to move the ball against a defense with mammoth tackles Eric Hampton and Shaquille Crouch anchoring the middle. But the Cavaliers did just enough in the first half, and Anthony’s 1-yard touchdown run and a 37-yard field goal by Mac McCall gave them a 10-6 halftime lead.
Touchdown runs of 17 yards by Brison Allison and 73 yards by Tushai Edwards – each followed by a failed two-point conversion attempt — put Johnsonville on top 18-10 with 8:28 remaining.
Conner’s 31-yard kickoff return brought the ball to the Christ Church 46-yard line with the season on the line.
“I guess you can practice drives like that, but you can’t match the intensity,” Larry Frost said. “We tried to be solid in what we did. We didn’t try anything new.”
On fourth-and-three at the Johnsonville 47, Anthony hit Nick Taylor for 8 yards and a first down. Anthony then completed passes of 9 yards to Bobby Hudson and 24 yards to Rudy Johnstone, giving Christ Church a first-and-goal at the 6.
Three plays later, Anthony scored from a yard out. On the two-point conversion, Anthony rolled right, stopped, ran back to his left and then into the end zone standing up.
Then came the safety, which put the Cavaliers in front. Johnsonville kicked from its 20, and White caught the ball at his 45, eluded a defender and raced down the left sideline for the clinching score.
“Everybody always says we recruit,” Don Frost said. “If it’s so, I need to fire my recruiting coordinator, because I don’t have anybody with any size. We just play with heart.”