Delhi Charter School falls 25-13 to Christian Life

DELHI – There was another game for the 2008 senior Gators of Delhi Charter to play after their 25-13 loss to the Christian Life Crusaders in the Class 1A semi-finals. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on the green carpet of the Superdome like they had dreamed. But it might have been more fitting that it ended this way, just kids playing catch; with no cheering crowd, no referee whistles and no scoreboard…just friends tossing a ball, just like it began eight years ago.

This game had a lot of the locals talking about the last time a team from Delhi made a trip this deep in the playoffs and, according to one particular local, that game occurred in 1959 when the Delhi High School Bears lost to Baker 7-6 in the state championship game. Most recently, the Bears were defeated in the quarterfinals by Welsh, 36-0, in 1991.

Forty-nine years later after the last state championship appearance, this game turned out to be exactly what everyone expected with each team trying to win the war in the trenches and establish its running game. DCS won the toss and had the upper hand early with a 12-play 77 yard drive that took over six minutes. On the drive, the Gators never faced a third down. Hunter Simms capped it with an eight yard run and Jeremy Foote added the PAT for the 7-0 lead.

“That was our plan early, to drive it on the first series and score,” Delhi Charter Head Coach Brett Raley said after the game. “Every game in the playoffs, they’ve forced turnovers and got the lead early and we had to avoid that hurdle.”

One thing the Gators couldn’t avoid was Christian Life tailback, Shane Andrus. On the ensuing kickoff, the Gators pinned the Crusaders at their own eight by not sky-kicking the ball.

On the first play, Andrus lined up at receiver and quarterback Kevin Wright attempted to get it to him through the air on a long pass, but it fell incomplete. Wright’s handoff to him on the next play proved to be a better option as Andrus raced 92 yards untouched for the score.

The kick failed leaving the Gators still ahead 7-6.

From that point, the defenses settled in and both teams had some success moving the ball, but punts and interceptions ruled the second quarter and DCS took the 7-6 lead to halftime. The only exception was two passes that wide-open CLA receivers dropped in the second quarter.

“I felt like we were in good shape being up at halftime and other than that one long run, we had kept them in check” Raley added. “We just had to continue to move the ball and try to contain him in the second half. That Andrus kid is just as good as advertised.”

The defense did its part on the opening series of the half by stymieing the Crusaders on three plays and forcing a punt. Stuart Scurria went on a 70-yard jaunt of his own to put the Gators ahead, 13-6, on DCS’ third play of the half. The defense forced another three-and-out to put Delhi Charter back on offense with a chance to add to its lead. Three plays later, Randy Julian rushed for 31 of his 142 yards on the night but was hit from behind at the Christian Life 30 and fumbled. Joshua McGee scooped up the pigskin for the visitors.

On third and three from the 38, Andrus, who finished the game with 259 yards on 26 carries, was hit hard by Curt Winstead and appeared to cough up the ball as the Gators came out of the pile with it. However, the officials ruled his knee down one yard short of a first down. CLA Head Coach Warren Capone decided to make a statement by going for it on fourth-and-one from his own 38 and Andrus didn’t disappoint him as he busted through the DCS defense and rambled 62 yards to draw the Crusaders closer at 13-12. Stephan Whisnant connected on the PAT to tie the score.

“That was a big series of the events and really changed the momentum,” Raley added. “The defense had shut them down twice and we were driving looking to go up by two scores. It looked like we had it back and then he killed us on that fourth-and-one.”

Unable to move the ball on their next drive, the Gators punted back to Christian Life. The Crusaders marched 55 yards on eight plays, all runs, and Andrus bulled in from six yards for his third TD of the night. Whisnants kick was blocked by Simms for DCS to leave the home team only behind by six, 19-13. However, the offense was never able to find its rhythm again and the defense couldn’t force a turnover or get a stop to get off the field. Crusader QB Kevin Wright added the final dagger with a two minutes remaining on a bootleg run of 37 yards for the final margin.

“These kids have nothing to be ashamed of because they left everything on the field,” Raley added. “We had some chances, but sometimes it’s just not meant to be. They got the breaks and took advantage.”

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