Despite having virtually every penalty of the night called against them, the Greenville Christian Saints preserved a 20-6 win versus a fired up Indianola Academy team in the MAIS 3A playoff on Friday night.
After suffering a blowout loss to the Saints just three weeks ago in a regular season contest, the visitors came for redemption with its raucous cowbell clanking crowd.
After three quarters of gridlock, a call finally went the home team’s way as the refs ruled that a punt hit an IA special teamer in the back early in the final stanza.
The Saints recovered the pigskin and the first penalty of the night against IA placed the ball inside the ten-yard line with ten minutes remaining in the game.
Five plays later, Saints quarterback D.J. Smith lowered his head and ran through the Colonels defense for a five-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion put GCS up 14-6 with 8:02 remaining in the game.
“Those calls where we were getting good yardage only to have them called back were killers,” said GCS head coach Jon Reed McLendon. “There are a few things that we need to go back and clean up to avoid having so many flags thrown against us.”
The Saints sealed the win with a 52-yard touchdown pitch and catch from Smith to Kerrick Ross with 4 minutes remaining in the game. The extra point failed and the Saints led 20-6 with 3:47 remaining in the game. The score was set up by a Terrion Ross interception.
The teams met three weeks ago and combined for 82 points. But this defensive struggle proved that each time teams step between the lines, contest are won and lost on their own merits.
When the Saints began throwing short passes to receivers and relying on the running game, the opponent’s defense began to soften.
“They knew what they had to do to slow the game down and keep the score low,” McLendon said. “ And they game planned for us real well tonight. So we had to make some adjustments.”
The Colonels opened the scoring methodically and patiently pounding the rock behind the physical running of senior Ashton Powell.
IA chewed up the final four minutes of the first quarter on the ground capped off by a Conner Roncali quarterback keeper for a score. The extra point was no good and the visitors led 6-0 with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter.
Greenville Christian reciprocated on their very next possession by going to its rushing game.
Junior tailback Marlon Palmer made two runs for positive yardage on the series before plowing over IA linebackers and jetting past defensive backs on route to a 52-yard touchdown.
The extra point failed and the score was deadlocked at 6-6 with 5:38 remaining in the second quarter. The Saints advanced to play Winona Christian on Friday.