Christ Presbyterian Academy came out swinging on Friday, building a two-score halftime advantage over neighboring private school Ensworth.
However, it was the Tigers who delivered the knockout blow, rallying for a 24-14 victory.
“If you know Ensworth football, you know we don’t quit,” senior running back Darius Morehead said. “You know we fight until the fourth quarter, and that’s what Coach (Ricky) Bowers trains us for — four-quarter games.”
After a scoreless opening quarter, CPA (4-1), the top-ranked team in Class 3A and winners of 19 straight, managed a pair of touchdowns in the closing seven minutes of the second.
First, Lions quarterback Zack Weatherly hooked up with Joseph Richardson over the top, resulting in a 36-yard scoring strike, and, minutes later, running back Chip Omer ripped off a 49-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-0 at the break.
“In the first half we made a number of mistakes, offensively and defensively,” Bowers said. “I don’t think we had a series in the first half where we didn’t have a penalty, and when you’re like us it’s very difficult to overcome a 5- and or 15-yard penalty.”
Things quickly changed in the third quarter, though.
The Tigers (3-3), who committed six first-half penalties for 65 yards, received the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 62 yards on 10 straight running plays, capping the momentous drive with Morehead’s 18-yard touchdown run.
“We needed that,” Morehead said. “Coming out in the first half we kind of got away from our game plan. We actually got back to our game — ground and pound and ramming it down their throat.”
“In the second half the game changed to how they wanted it,” CPA coach Ingle Martin said. “They were able to lean on us and they had short fields. I thought our defense played really well, but we didn’t give them much help offensively in the second half.”
Weatherly, who started 4-of-4 for 88 yards, completed just two of his final 12 throws, including a stretch of eight straight incompletions along with his first interception of the season.
“We settled in by playing a little better defense on the perimeter,” Bowers said. “I think we let them run by us a couple of times in the first half, and we let him stand back there too long. Coach (Jonas) Rodriguez did a good job getting pressure in the second half.”
Ensworth kicker Colby Green connected on a 35-yard field goal in the opening moments of the fourth quarter, and, following a quick CPA fumble, the Tigers claimed their first lead, 17-14, with 9:33 left.
Morehead, who finished with a season-high 158 yards rushing on 32 carries, was responsible for Ensworth’s final score — a 16-yard touchdown run with 1:22 remaining.
“Turnovers were a difference in the second half, and all the credit goes to their coaching staff and their kids,” Martin said. “We’ll get better, the sun’s going to rise tomorrow and we’ll get on with our lives.”
Weatherly, a Chattanooga commitment, finished 6-of-17 for 102 yards. Omer amassed 77 yards rushing on eight carries, while Wallace Barrett added 24 yards on eight attempts.
Reach Michael Murphy at 615-259-8262 and on Twitter @Murph_TNsports.