Behind an early start on offense and a stout defense, the Foundation Academy Lions were able to hang on late for a 21-14 win over the Oak Hall Eagles to advance to the regional finals Friday, Nov. 15.
Foundation Academy (9-2) seized control early, as they were able to capitalize on good field position in the first quarter to score touchdowns on their first two drives of the game to go up 14-0.
Late in the second quarter, the Lions extended their lead to 21 with a rushing touchdown from Danny Stutsman.
With the defense shutting down Oak Hall’s potent offense throughout the first half, Lions head coach Brad Lord decided to use his timeouts to try and give his team one more shot at scoring before the end of the half. Those timeouts wound of backfiring, as the Eagles (8-4) drove down the field and scored on a pass from Cole Gonzales to Andrew Pickens with 12.5 seconds left in the half.
Foundation Academy went into halftime up 21-7.
“I made a mistake at halftime,” Lord said. “I shouldn’t have called those timeouts. We should’ve went into the half up 21-0. I got a little greedy, they scored and (it was a) new game.”
With momentum on their side, Oak Hall forced an interception to start the second half and drove down the field. Following an interception by the Lions being called back because of pass interference, the Eagles scored once again on a pass from Gonzales to Pickens to cut Foundation Academy’s lead to 21-14 with 7:25 left in the third quarter.
The Lions would respond with a long drive of their own — moving the ball all the way inside the Eagles’ 5-yard line. Stutsman would make a rare mistake, however, as he fumbled the ball away, which Oak Hall recovered at Foundation Academy’s 2-yard line.
By the end of the third quarter, Oak Hall had the ball in Lion’s territory. Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Foundation Academy forced a fumble and Henry Austad recovered. After the Lions were forced to punt, Oak Hall drove again into Foundation Academy, but just like on the previous drive, Foundation Academy’s defense managed to get a stop — forcing a turnover on downs.
With 3:47 left in the game, the Lions had a chance to put the game away with a field goal. That wouldn’t come to fruition though, as the kick hit the left upright.
The Eagles would attempt to go down the field to tie the game, but Foundation Academy got one last stop, forcing another turnover on downs to seal the game.
In Oak Hall’s last two games, the Eagles scored 50 and 47 points, respectively. The Lions’ defense forced three turnovers on downs, had one fumble recovery and Dominic Zagame had an interception. Michael Lemieux-bott led the team with nine tackles and Edward Byrd had eight tackles.
“Our defense played real good tonight,” Lord said.
Offensively, Stutsman led the team with 179 all-purpose yards and one-rushing touchdown and Travis Hutchinson also had a rushing touchdown. Austad completed eight of his 12 passes for 93 yards, with his one passing touchdown being completed to Braden Holcomb — he also threw an interception.
“We should’ve scored two or three more touchdowns and we didn’t do that,” Lord said. “We persevered. I have a great bunch of seniors, great leadership — we’re going to the regional championship again and we’re getting to go to Lakeland again.”
The Lions will seek revenge as they go on the road to face Victory Christian Academy for the fourth time in five years.
“I expect us to get real tough next week, and go to Victory and have another thriller over there like we do every year,” Lord said.