Prince Avenue Christian School’s football team rolled in its final game before region play.
The Wolverines hosted Hebron Christian Academy last Friday and won 35-6. It was their final tune-up before facing Region 8-A-Private opponents beginning this Friday night at Athens Academy.
The first quarter saw Prince Avenue Christian get a score within the first four minutes. It gave up a touchdown five minutes later but blocked the extra point attempt to maintain the lead.
Things slowed down a little from there but the Wolverines’ offense eventually picked up steam and pulled away.
“I feel like we're a really good team,” Prince Avenue Christian quarterback Aaron Philo said. “I feel like, when we play our best, I don't think we can be beat. We didn't play our best [Friday] but we still won. That's all that matters.”
The victory over Hebron Christian improved the Wolverines’ record to 5-1. It extended their winning streak to five games.
Prince Avenue Christian got the scoring started on a throw from Philo to Elijah Dewitt. That play put the Wolverines ahead 7-0 with 8:13 to go in the first quarter.
Hebron Christian got its lone touchdown at the 3:59 mark of the first quarter before Prince Avenue Christian blocked the PAT.
Philo scored on a short rushing play with 5:44 left in the second quarter, increasing the lead to 14-6. He tossed a touchdown pass to Ethan Christian just 23 seconds before halftime, making it a 21-6 game.
That score held through the third quarter.
Bailey Stockton took a handoff from Philo and found the end zone on a 2-yard run to make it 28-6 with 10:17 left in the game.
Mac Bradley scored the final touchdown of the night. The freshman running back scored on a 14-yard run with 4:36 to play, making it 35-6.
It was not a perfect night for the Wolverines’ offense – thanks in no small part to the talented players on Hebron Christian’s defense – but it was more than enough to get a win.
“Those guys, all year, have continued to produce and make big plays,” Prince Avenue Christian head coach Greg Vandagriff said regarding the passing game. “It was tough sledding. Hats off to [Hebron Christian], they played hard defense and played hard all night. Where we've been able to take advantage against some other teams, they took it away.”
Last Friday’s game marked the first time this season that no Wolverine receivers recorded 100 yards receiving or more. They had at least one receiver with at least 100 yards in each of their first five games.
Still, the passing game proved effective.
Christian caught four passes for 75 yards, the most of the night, with one touchdown. Dewitt had five receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Stockton finished with four grabs totaling 25 yards while Bradley had 25 yards on three catches. Josh Britt caught one pass for 13 yards.
Though their stats did not quite reach the level they did in the other games, the receivers found ways to get open and help Prince Avenue Christian effectively move the ball.
“They just get better every week,” Philo said. “They're beasts.”
An early injury to Philo affected the offensive game plan.
Philo took a hit and crashed hard to the ground onto his shoulder. He was slow to get up but he never left the game.
“He's just banged up,” Vandagriff said. “He got slammed down and, in the second half, we just tried to manage the ball. We really didn't want to put him in a situation where he would take another hit.”
Philo went 17-for-23 with 176 yards passing. He had one interception but threw two touchdowns and rushed for another.
The biggest completion of the night came on a long pass from Philo to Christian, who leapt high into the air and out-jumped a Lions defender to snag the ball at the 5-yard line.
“I beat [the defender] off the snap,” Christian said. “Aaron's shoulder was hurting him, so he just kind of put it up there and trusted me and I went and got it.”
Prince Avenue Christian’s running game continued a positive trend. The Wolverines totaled 69 yards on 28 carries.
They have three games with less than 40 yards rushing – two of which ended with negative rushing yards – but they averaged 78.5 yards rushing across their last two games after finishing with -36 yards Sept. 10 against Holy Innocents’.
Bradley led the rushing effort last week with 56 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Stockton ran it five times for 18 yards and one score. Luke Lanier had two carries for 15 yards before leaving early due to injury.
“We've got to be able to run the ball,” Christian said. “We know we're able to air it out if we have to but, if we can run the ball, it'll spread it out.”
The defensive effort last week continued a dominant run for the Wolverines.
Hebron Christian averaged nearly 270 yards rushing per game entering last week’s contest. The Wolverines held the Lions to 154 yards rushing, which was their second-lowest total of the season. The Lions’ 3.8 yards per carry last week marked their lowest single-game average of the year.
Ethan Garner, who recovered two fumbles during the game, said defensive coordinator Rob Ridings had the defense ready for the Lions’ rushing attack.
“Coach Ridings had a really good scheme and we prepared all week for it,” Garner said. “Everyone did their job. For a defense to stop a run game like theirs, it takes everyone doing their job.”
Wade McCormick (15) and Will Elrod (10) had the most total tackles to lead a 71-tackle effort by the Wolverines, their most tackles of the year. Jackson Zittrouer and Uriah Howard each recorded one tackle for loss.
Garner scooped up two fumbles while Riley Cartey and Mason Durning each recovered one.
And that defensive showcase happened without Lanier, the team’s leading tackler for the season. Lanier got hurt in the early stages and could have returned, but Vandagriff said he was held out as a precaution.
This week, the Wolverines will travel to Athens Academy for a critical region matchup.
The Spartans are 4-2 and represent arguably the biggest threat to Prince Avenue Christian’s hope of repeating as region champion.
Vandagriff said his team must continue the effort it showed last week if it wants to win.
“I don't know that we need heroics,” he said. “We've just got to get better. We need to do what we do better. We need to block the right people, we need to execute on offense and we need to keep playing good defense.”