Bethel Christian loses 20-point lead, falls to Northeast Academy
LASKER | The third time wasn't the charm for Bethel Christian.
The Trojans had the early advantage, but Northeast/Hobgood Academy roared back to win 30-26 Friday on a rain-soaked field in Lasker for the NCISAA 1A semifinals. The Trojans (5-4) fell to the Eagles (7-1) twice in the regular season, and despite a 20-0 lead in the second quarter, Bethel Christian couldn't sustain momentum.
"I think (Northeast) controlled the line of scrimmage and it gave us some trouble in the second half," Trojans coach Brick Crowder said.
After forcing a turnover on downs to start the game, Bethel Christian converted on a fourth-and-6 with Rodney Warren scoring from 24 yards out. The Trojans would recover an onside kick and three plays later, Warren scored from 30 to put Bethel Christian ahead 14-0 with 5:20 to go in the first.
Northeast would get its initial first down on the next drive, but one play later Zack Boyd recovered a fumble, setting up an 11-play, 57-yard drive ending in Josh Sutton's 1-yard run to put Bethel Christian up 20-0 early in the second. The Eagles turned the ball over on downs again and the Trojans seemed primed to break the game open.
Northeast would force a fumble and score three plays later on a pass from Ryan Rowe to Zy Matthewson to cut the deficit to 12. The Eagles looked for more, but an incomplete pass at the Trojans' 18 ended the first half. Northeast would close the gap after halting Bethel Christian's first drive in the third, as Rowe found Alex Hanff for a touchdown to cap a 12-play, 78-yard drive aided by a 46-yard run by J.T. Simmons with 3:12 to go in the third.
Bethel Christian rebounded two plays later with a 31-yard Sutton touchdown run, but Simmons responded with a score of his own to end the third. Northeast forced a turnover on downs to start the fourth, but Connor Williams intercepted Rowe with 9:06 to play.
The Trojans couldn't convert on the turnover and the Eagles took advantage with a 39-yard go-ahead touchdown by Simmons with 5:59 left. After being bottled up in the first half, Simmons had 166 of his 192 rushing yards in the second.
Bethel Christian tried to respond on the next drive and drove into Northeast territory, but couldn't advance past the 33 before turning it over on downs. The Trojans had a final chance with 47 seconds remaining, but a fumble was recovered by the Eagles with 22 seconds to go.
Although the Trojans fell, with the loss of just one senior, Cody Dunk, Crowder said he hopes the team will recover for what could be a great 2019 campaign.
"In my life, I've always learned more in the valley than I have on a mountaintop," Crowder said. "I told them 'remember the hurt you felt tonight and let it propel the football team in the future.' If we do that, we'll be really strong over the next couple years."
For Bethel Christian, Warren had 125 yards rushing and Sutton added 118.