Senior quarterback. Senior wide receivers. But it was a freshman running back who helped power the Christian Heritage Lions to a win Friday night.
Ahmaad Tanner scored the first and final touchdowns of the game for the Lions in an intracounty matchup as they ran past Coahulla Creek 27-9 at Colts Stadium.
Tanner stepped in for nicked-up running back Jake Stokes and finished with 65 yards on 19 carries. Stokes, a senior who suffered a shoulder injury in the first half of the season opener two weeks ago, didn’t see any action on offense but played the majority of snaps at linebacker on defense.
“It was a great win for the team,” said Tanner, who attended Dalton Middle School this past school year. “It helps us move along on our journey. I’m just proud to be here with the team.”
The win pushed Christian Heritage to 2-1, while the Colts fell to 1-2.
Both teams entered their third game of the season with turnover woes. Each team had four interceptions and a pair of fumbles lost in its first two games. But on Friday, Christian Heritage played turnover-free football while Coahulla Creek had two interceptions and a lost fumble.
Christian Heritage coach Preston Poag characterized his Lions as “a veteran team, a senior-driven team,” and said having Tanner’s speed and elusiveness will complement the prolific passing of quarterback Trevor Brown, who had 259 yards through the air and two touchdown tosses to receiver Nich Bartley.
“He’s just hard to tackle,” Poag said of Tanner. “He’s just always cutting and spinning, and the one big thing is he held on to the ball. We didn’t have any turnovers tonight. That’s a big deal. He brings a different element to the team. We’ve got enough backs to rotate in there and keep them fresh.”
Mistakes hurt Coahulla Creek all night long. Early in the first quarter, the Colts’ offense had fourth-and-goal at the Lions’ 1-yard line. The Christian Heritage defense stuffed a quarterback sneak, leading to a turnover on downs.
On Coahulla Creek’s next possession, the Colts fumbled the ball away. Christian Heritage responded with a 14-play, 90-yard scoring drive capped by Tanner’s 5-yard scoring run.
Despite the mistakes, Coahulla Creek only trailed by four at halftime and opened the third quarter with a long drive of its own. Quarterback Blaine Williams’ scoring scamper from 9 yards gave Coahulla Creek its first lead of the night. After a missed extra point, the Colts were up 9-7.
But in the second half, the Brown-to-Bartley connection picked up. With 5:29 left in the third quarter, Brown hit Bartley for a 34-yard scoring pass. And with 6:35 remaining in the fourth, Brown hit Bartley for another 34-yard touchdown. At that point, the Lions led 21-9.
Coahulla Creek coach Jared Hamlin said his players put forth a good effort, but the team must take advantage of opportunities.
“I thought our defense played hard, I thought our offense played hard,” Hamlin said. “They played tough, they played hard, they played physical and they played the right way. They did it with class and I was proud of them for that. We’ve got to take advantage of opportunities.”