By Devin Golden
Trailing 21-7 and needing a stop in a bad way, Christian Heritage School’s defense forced a third-and-21 situation Friday against Darlington.
Even then, the Lions’ defense couldn’t stop the run.
Darlington’s 25-yard run and conversion on the third-and-a-mile play was a fair summary of the entire game between the two teams. The host Tigers gained 357 yards running the football and won 41-17 in the first-round matchup of the Class A private school state playoffs.
“They were good up front and blocked us well,” Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag said. “They had us on our heels a little bit on defense.”
Christian Heritage (8-3) was the last football team from either Whitfield or Murray counties still with hopes of a deep postseason run.
The conversion set up Darlington’s fourth touchdown, giving the hosts a 28-7 lead late in the second quarter. Darlington scored all six of its touchdowns running the football and called 61 running plays to just two pass plays. On the first play from scrimmage, running back Trey Edge gave Darlington a 7-0 lead with a 55-yard touchdown run.
“Our kids came out and played with a chip on their shoulders,” Darlington coach Tommy Atha said. “They heard a lot about how Christian Heritage outplayed us in the last game or felt they outplayed us and deserved to win. Our kids felt they needed to come out and play with a lot of emotion.”
In these two teams’ first meeting this season, a Sub-region 6A-A clash, Christian Heritage led 14-3 at halftime, but Darlington rallied for an 18-14 win.
Despite losing, this year’s Christian Heritage team accomplished an important milestone for the program. In only the second season competing in the Georgia High School Association — the Lions previously were in the Glory for Christ Football League — Christian Heritage reached the state playoffs.
“You’re never satisfied,” said Christian Heritage quarterback Trevor Brown, who threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns but also had three interceptions. “You always want to keep going and ultimately play for a state championship. But I think everyone should keep their heads up.”
Brown led all area quarterbacks with 2,608 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns this season. Wide receiver Nich Bartley led the area with 70 receptions, 1,217 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns. Both were amongst the top statistical leaders in the state as well.
Both players, plus wide receivers Will Fischer and Brian Pierce and running backs Jake Stokes and Austin Lowe, are seniors at skill positions.
“Some guys threw up some big numbers,” Poag said. “They are numbers that some of these young guys will have to step up and replace. The seniors led the way.”