St. John’s Christian football coach Brandon Clontz believes the Cavaliers have many better nights ahead.
The season opener against visiting Beaufort Academy was one to forget, though.
The Eagles, who won 42-33, picked off three passes in the first half and returned a punt for a touchdown to build a 21-point lead in gaining the traction they needed to win for only the second time in the last six meetings with St. John’s Christian.
The Eagles came up with big play after big play to deny the home team. Beaufort Academy (1-0) snagged five interceptions and returned a fumble to set up a score.
“Everything that could go wrong did,” Clontz said. “We’re one or two plays away. Whereas last year, those one or two plays went our way, tonight they didn’t. The kids still played hard. We would have liked to have gotten the W but we’ll watch film and get back to work.”
St. John’s Christian heads to Dillon Christian on Friday for another tough outing. It should amount to about a three-hour bus ride one way.
“They’re beat down now but they’ll come back Monday with some bounce in their step and be ready to go,” Clontz said. “These kids are tough and resilient.”
They showed a lot of that against Beaufort Academy but simply dug too big a hole to get out of.
Sophomore backup quarterback Shy’Juan Grant came on to lead a serious rally for the Cavaliers, throwing three touchdown passes after entering on the final drive of the first half. His 12-yard strike to Hayden Redders pulled the Cavs within 27-13 at the break and sparked some excitement.
The Eagles returned a fumble 58 yards and scored on third-and-goal from the 22 to make it a three-touchdown game again with 2:04 left in the third quarter.
Grant and the Cavs responded quickly. He found Trace Cusick behind the defense for 42 yards and running back Jaden Bradley reached paydirt on a 4-yard run. The extra point was blocked, leaving the Eagles on top 34-19.
Grant’s second touchdown pass, a 6-yarder to Easton Morris with 10:11 remaining, pulled the Cavaliers within 34-25, and the Cavaliers recorded a safety when Beaufort Academy snapped it out of the end zone on a punt attempt with under eight minutes left.
The stage was set for a comeback and Grant’s 35-yard touchdown pass to Redders made it 34-33 with 7:17 left. However, the Eagles blocked the extra-point attempt to keep the lead.
St. John’s Christian got the ball back at Beaufort Academy’s 46 with 2:51 remaining when Jaden Bradley jumped on a loose ball but the momentum was short-lived. A Grant pass to the sideline bounced off the shoulder pads of a Cavaliers receiver and the Eagles’ Ben Lubkin returned it 52 yards for a back-breaking score.
The extra point made it a nine-point game.
Lubkin also returned another pass 43 yards for a touchdown in the first half and grabbed a third interception in the closing minute.
In the first quarter, Cavaliers quarterback Trent Short hit Morris with a 10-yard touchdown pass before Beaufort Academy was able to build a 27-6 advantage.
“There were times when we could have quit but didn’t,” Clontz said. “That’s a 2A football team over there. We don’t have to play them anymore. We’ve got nine 1A games we’ve got to win. We’re trying to win the 1A state championship. They’re probably going to contend for the 2A state championship. We knew they were going to be tough.”