The First Academy’s final drive of the game fell just short, as the Royals lost to the Lakeland Christian Vikings 28-24 in the regional finals Friday, Nov. 22.
Down 10-0 late in the second quarter, the Royals (6-6) scored their first points of the game on a 20-yard touchdown run from Lake Ellis. TFA would go into halftime down 10-6.
On the first play of the second half, Idris Williams ran for 61-yards for a touchdown to extend the Vikings (10-1) lead to 17-6. Then Sean Johnson Jr. took over and the Royals’ offense got rolling.
After already converting once on fourth down earlier in the drive, TFA decided to try their luck once again on fourth-and-2 from Lakeland Christian’s 6-yard line. The gamble would pay off, as Terrence Mosely ran 6-yards for a touchdown. Mosely would score once again on the two-point conversion to trim the deficit to 17-14 with 2:31 left in the third quarter.
Following a crucial stop by the TFA defense, the Royals got the ball back at their 2-yard line with 24.4 seconds left in the quarter.
The offense kept the momentum going, as they moved the ball near midfield after being pinned deep in their own territory to start the drive. Then on third and long, Johnson scrambled 47 yards to give the Royals their first lead of the game at 20-17 with 7:55 left in the game.
Then, after TFA was seemingly in control, Lakeland Christian ran the ball right down the field and retook the lead 24-20 on a 5-yard touchdown run from Dejandre Hudson.
After getting the ball back at their own 20 with 6:10 left in the game, TFA managed to replicate the same success they had on their previous two drives. With 3:10 left in the game, the Royals once again found themselves having to go for it on fourth down, and once again found a way to convert as Johnson scrambled for a first down.
After a penalty — facing third-and-16 with under a minute left in the game — Johnson had a chance to hit Ellis for a first down inside the Vikings’ 15-yard line, but they were unable to connect. On the following play, Johnson threw an interception which sealed the game for Lakeland Christian.
Despite the loss, TFA head coach Leroy Kinard was proud of the way his team fought back from being down by double-digits at two separate points in the game.
“I knew that that’s what they had in them,” Kinard said. “We have great leadership with our four seniors — Lake Ellis, Michael McFayden, Josh Forbes, Robert Smith along with our quarterback Sean Johnson who is a junior, it’s great leadership. I knew that they weren’t going to quit — that wasn’t in the equation.”
Johnson turned in an impressive performance, rushing for a touchdown, while picking up huge gains on the ground on multiple occasions. His performance drew extremely high praise from Kinard.
“As good of an individual performance at quarterback we’ve ever had here,” Kinard said. “That kid has stepped up at the end of the season, (and in) all three of our playoff games. I don’t think we’ve ever had a quarterback like that. He’s been unbelievable.”
With four seniors graduating, TFA will be returning most of its team, which can definitely set the foundation for an even better season in 2020.
“I’m very proud of that,” Kinard said. “Our team played well when it counted and that’s important.
“With only four seniors you have a lot of growing pains,” he said. “You got to get through some of that and we had an opportunity to get through some of that. I just can’t say enough about our quarterback. Crazy night tonight and also Terrence Mosely, he’s a force and we get those guys back next year. I’m excited about it.”