The Pope John Paul II Knights scored 33 unanswered points on the road Friday against the Lipscomb Academy Mustangs to erase a 14-0 halftime deficit and claim a 33-14 victory.
“A lot of credit to them,” first year Lipscomb Academy coach Trent Dilfer said. “JPII did a great job of picking themselves up in the second half.”
“In the first half we were getting whipped,” JPII coach Justin Geisinger said. “We want the best from the kids. We questioned whether we were getting that.”
The Mustangs held JPII star junior running back Antwan Roberts to just 14 yards on nine carries in the first half. And quarterback Sawyer Watts was 4 of 11 passing for 51 yards and one interception in the first half.
Meanwhile, Lipscomb Academy, behind sophomore quarterback Luther Richesson, was dominating play.
Richesson connected with senior wide receiver Kyle McNamara for a 30-yard touchdown completion to open the scoring. McNamara was able to out-jump the JPII defender and wrestled the ball away to complete the play.
A 38-yard run by Richesson set up Lipscomb Academy’s second touchdown on a 9-yard run by Jaden Lyles to give the Mustangs a 14-0 lead at the half.
“We were all frustrated,” said JPII junior cornerback Timothy Lark. “We had to come alive.”
“We knew we had to step it up,” added fellow JPII cornerback Kilon Williams.
“We just challenged them,” Geisinger said of his players.
“Our defense did an outstanding job,” he said. “Offensively, we made a few adjustments and tweaks.”
JPII won the turnover battle 4-2 over the Mustangs, Geisinger noted. “When you win that battle, it really helps.”
“We kind of self-destructed,” Dilfer said of his Mustangs.
On the opening drive of the second half, JPII drove to the Lipscomb 15. The drive stalled and Andrew Southard missed a 44-yard field goal attempt.
But on the next play, a high snap got away from Richesson and JPII’s Brandon Shockley recovered at the Lipscomb 6 yard line.
Roberts scored his first of three touchdowns for the night on the next play with a 6 yard run.
When Lipscomb missed a 30-yard field goal attempt, JPII needed only three plays to strike, with Watts scampering 66-yards to tie the score at 14-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“It was a great morale boost for the football team,” Watts said. “The offensive line opened a hole and Antwan had a big block.”
Roberts, who usually carries the rushing load for the Knights, was the lead blocker on the play, Geisinger said.
Opposing teams are going to load the box to stop Roberts, and he has to find other ways to contribute, Geisinger said. “I’m proud of his maturity” to accept that role, he added.
JPII took advantage of another Lipscomb mistake when a low punt from the end zone went directly to Williams who returned it to the Lipscomb 4. Roberts scored his second touchdown of the game on the next play. A missed extra point, left JPII’s lead at 20-14.
An interception by JPII safety Devvan Darden, his second of the game, and a 39-yard run by Roberts set up JPII’s next score on a 39-yard pass from Watts to senior wide receiver Rory White.
“We were reading the safety,” Watts said. “When he dropped down into the box that left Rory one-on-one.”
“Sawyer threw a great ball over the top, a perfect pass,” White said.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving the score at 26-14.
JPII used a steady diet of Roberts on the last scoring drive of the game. He ran the ball eight times – the only play he didn’t run the ball was a fumbled snap – scoring his third touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run.
Roberts finished the game with 129 yards on 24 carries. Watts added 71 yards on 12 carries. JPII outgained Lipscomb for the game 338 yards to 251.
Lyles led Lipscomb with 95 yards on 20 carries and one touchdown. Richesson completed 12 of 18 passes with two interceptions for 137 yards and one touchdown.
“We pull the same thing from every game,” Dilfer said. “It teaches us a life lesson.”
“Football is a lot like life. You get kicked in the face sometimes,” he said. “We’ll come back and get after it.”
The Mustangs, 1-1 on the season, next Friday travel to Franklin Road Academy to open Division II-AA Middle Region play.
“I’m glad our team went through this,” Geisinger said of the Knights. “We’re going to have to face adversity. When something bad happens, we have to be able to come back.”
The 2-0 Knights will open Division II-AAA West Region play on Friday when they host Briarcrest Christian School of Memphis.
“We’ve got to have a great week of practice, and do everything we can to get ready,” White said.
“It’s our first region game,” Watts added. “We’re going to try to get started right.”