For the second time this season, the Christ Presbyterian Academy Lions held a three-point lead over the Goodpasture Cougars at halftime on a Friday night. Also, for the second time this season, the Lions pulled away in the third quarter to win convincingly.
CPA defeated Goodpasture 58-22 to advance to their third consecutive Division II-AA state championship game.
Athleticism was all over the field Friday night for both teams, and big plays abounded.
CPA’s Reid Williford returned the game’s first punt from midfield to the end zone to kick off the scoring with just over a minute gone in the game.
On offense, CPA relied heavily on junior running back Langston Patterson early in the game. On the Lions’ first drive, Patterson carried the ball eight times for 36 yards before quarterback Cade Law cashed in on his work with a touchdown from the 1-yard line.
Despite being a heavy underdog, the Cougars stayed in the fight. Senior running back Brendan Jones put his team on the board with an 80-yard touchdown run to finish the first quarter.
After a CPA field goal, senior quarterback Cooper Pennington added a highlight of his own, evading pressure and finding junior receiver Josh Williams who dove across the goal line with two Lion tacklers on him.
The Cougars trailed 17-14 at halftime and controlled the momentum. Players were amping up the crowd who responded in kind.
When these two teams met earlier in the season, the Lions led 3-0 at halftime before scoring 27 unanswered points in the third quarter to put their opponents away, and almost the same script played itself out on Friday.
The third quarter was full of back-breaking plays for the Cougars.
After recovering their own onside kick, Goodpasture turned the ball over on downs, leading to the first of three CPA touchdown plays of over 20 yards in the third quarter.
The longer the game went on, the stronger the Lions running attack was.
CPA head coach Ingle Martin felt his team simply “executed” better in the second half than the first, while the opposite was true for their opponents.
“Hats off to coach (Tyler) Turner, Goodpasture, unbelievable job they did this year,” Martin said. “That was a great football game tonight. They came ready to play. Shoot, that’s a good football team.
“I think the biggest thing for us was execution. The first half, they did a great job executing their game plan, kept the game close. In the second half, our guys came out and executed what we were trying to do, but again, November football, you take what you get.”
Goodpasture head coach Tyler Turner knew the Lions liked to wear their opponents down throughout the game with their physical play. With only 32 active players, one less week of rest than their opponents and a couple of injuries, the team’s lack of depth was too much to overcome.
“We played last week, had a couple guys go down, so we had some younger guys in there this week,” Turner said. “Our left guard goes down. We have 32 kids dressed out. The next kid, that’s a freshman… We’re a young team. We only have seven seniors, but that’s what CPA does to everybody, though.
“CPA wears you down, and they’re going to play a disciplined brand of football, and second half, they’re going to line up and run it at you. That’s what they do to teams, and depth played a part in that tonight, but our kids fought to the very end and gave it all they got. I’m very proud of them.”
The Cougars had an incredible bounce-back season after a 4-6 season last year to finish in the state semifinals with a 9-3 combined record. This was Turner’s first season as the head coach, and he said this season was special, despite the loss.
“We lost to a good team, a team that has been to the state championship five of the last seven years,” Turner said. “We just rushed out 32 kids and fought our tails off to the very end. I’m more proud of this team than of any team I’ve ever coached.
“They fought, they fought, they fought when the odds were against us a lot of weeks. Hats off to our seniors for leading the way.”
Jones, who recently signed a baseball scholarship to play at Kansas State University, was an integral part of this Goodpasture team. He capped off his career with 16 carries for 127 yards and one touchdown.
“Brendan Jones is a special player, and those are once in a lifetime kind of kids,” Turner said. “He’s an outstanding baseball player, committed to Kansas State, and you’d never know that baseball is his main passion because in football he’s the same exact way.
“He comes to practice everyday and gives everything he has. He’s a leader. He’s never had a bad day in practice, and we knew when the ball was in Brendan’s hands, he could make something happen.”
For the Lions, they get the opportunity to go back to the TSSAA state championship in Cookeville, Tenn. where they have been the last two years.
Martin said his team is happy to spend two more weeks together, doing what they love, and that is something to celebrate this year amidst a lot of uncertainty.
“We’re just excited to be playing,” Martin said. “2020, you know, the biggest thing right now is perspective, so for us, to have a chance to be together two more weeks, that’s really what we’re focused on. We’re excited because we got two more weeks to get better, to improve and to be able to play the last game says a lot for these seniors, a lot for these upperclassmen.
“We’re certainly excited about getting a chance to go back to Cookeville.”
The Lions will face off against the Lipscomb Academy Mustangs for the TSSAA Division II-AA crown on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. at Tucker Stadium on the campus of Tennessee Tech University.
CPA lost the previous meeting between the two this season by a score of 20-14.