District champs! Foundation wins overtime thriller to clinch 2A-4 crown
| 9:25 a.m. October 17, 2015
WINTER GARDEN The game had ended, his shoulder pads were off — but Gabe Walker still walked around with a ball clenched tightly in his hands.
And why wouldn't he?
Moments earlier, Walker had carried that same ball across the goal line into the west end zone at Walker Field. The touchdown run ended overtime — and the game — giving the Foundation Academy Lions a 34-28 victory over Victory Christian on Oct. 16.
It also clinched the program's first-ever district championship.
The Lions started playing football in 2006 and current head coach Brad Lord took over in 2008. After finishing as runner-up and advancing to the Class 2A State Playoffs for road games in the past, Foundation (4-4, 2-0 in Class 2A, District 4) now can look forward to hosting a playoff game for the first time.
"We've been second three times and the kids are tired of being second," a jubilant Lord said afterward.
The night was particularly special for Walker.
The Storm scored 21 unanswered points in the second half — swinging what had been a 21-7 score in favor of the Lions to 28-21 in favor of Victory with just 3:20 to play. Foundation drove down the field and scored with just 30 seconds remaining to tie the game — on a run by Walker — and then, after its defense got a stop to start overtime, his number was called one last time.
"I just let my team know to stay focused — (that) the game's not over," Walker said, recalling when Victory had gone ahead in the game's waning moments of regulation. "I was pretty confident in myself. I work hard all offseason. I know I 'm capable of making the plays. ...
"(Scoring the winning touchdown) was exciting — it was really exciting. Watching everybody jump up and down and all my players on the field running toward me. The crowd was going crazy."
While Walker scored the tying and winning touchdowns, though, it really was an entire team effort for the Lions to survive the fierce rally from the Storm. The defense allowed only two scoring drives — two of Victory's scores came on special teams and defense — and one of those began deep in Foundation territory after a punt touched a Lion and was recovered by a player for the Storm.
Led by the likes of sophomore Konrie Brown, Foundation's defense got stop-after-stop, including particularly important stops at the end of regulation and when Victory got the ball at the 10-yard line to start overtime.
"We had to have heart all the way through it," Brown said. "It means a lot because, you know, we never won districts — so it's really history."
Coaches from both teams will almost surely pull their hair out while watching the film of a game that, while exciting, was chock-full of penalties (including several personal fouls), turnovers and other mistakes. Lord and his staff, in particular, will have to watch their boys blow a two-score lead in the fourth quarter.
Still, Lord gave a hearty post-game speech in which he praised his team's heart in not surrendering when things looked particularly dire.
"A lot of crap went bad in that game — and you kept coming back," Lord said to his players. "We're going to hang a banner — the first district championship in school history. I can't be prouder as a coach."
And as for Walker, he had no trouble identifying where this game places in his career on the gridiron — smiling and saying "It's No. 1."
Foundation Academy 2-0 (left to play - Agape on Oct. 29)
Victory Christian 1-1 (left to play - Cornerstone on Oct. 30)
Cornerstone Charter 1-1 (left to play - Victory on Oct. 30)
Agape Christian 0-2 (left to play - Foundation on Oct. 29)
The buzz: Victory defeated Agape before taking on the Lions, meaning the Storm will close their district slate with a game against Cornerstone. The winner of that will have two district wins, tying Foundation, but the Lions already own the tie-breaker after defeating both teams — therefore clinching the district with their win on Oct. 16. Foundation will be favored against Agape, though, and head coach Brad Lord indicated his desire to go a perfect 3-0 in district play.