By Derrick Richemond
For the Forsyth County News
Horizon Christian defeated David Emanuel Academy 28-26 Friday night in the GAPPS 8-man Division I semifinals to advance to next week's state championship game.
Neither team's first drive was what they expected; it was a defensive battle. The Eagles' possession ended with a sack for a quick three-and-out and the Warriors coughed up the football on a fumble.
A soon as the Warriors' defense stepped onto the field, they caused a turnover of their own when Aaron Monroe ballhawked the quarterback and intercepted the pass to get the ball back. However, their drive stalled and they were forced to punt.
The Eagles started their possession on the 9-yard line. They grounded and pounded with their rushing attack all the way toward the goal line, which is when Jesse Moore pushed his way for the first touchdown of the game. The Eagles seemed quite exhausted after a 91-yard drive and resulted in a failed two-point conversion to make the score 6-0 late in the first quarter.
On fourth-and-4 on Horizon's ensuing drive, the Warriors gambled to go for it. Tanner Story sold the defense and kept the ball on a fake punt, then ran through the middle of the defense untouched for the Warriors' first touchdown of the game.
The Eagles struck back fast on their second play of the next drive. Moore took the snap, cut it outside, and used his speed toward his advantage for a long run to regain the lead. It was Moore’s second touchdown of the game. Again, the Eagles failed on their two-point conversion.
A bad punt by the Eagles gave Horizon great field position on the opposing 34-yard line. The Warriors were confident in their running game and stuck with it.
On the first play, they ran for a big gain of 22 yards. On the following play, Zane Lamonde carried the ball on a QB keeper, losing two yards on the play. On third-and-goal, Lamonde took the snap, rolled right and found Monroe for the touchdown, regaining the lead 14-12.
With less a minute to go before halftime, the Warriors took another risky chance to go for it on a fourth-and-long. Unfortunately for them, Moore jumped in the air and recorded his second interception of the game and returned it to the opposing 47-yard line.
With 17 seconds left, an Eagles’ wide receiver caught a jump ball between two Warriors defenders on the 9-yard line. One more play until halftime, quarterback Clayton Hood rolled right and as soon as the pressure came, he hit Moore for the touchdown as the clock expires. David Emanuel went into the locker room at halftime with a 20-14 lead.
The Warriors' first possession of the second half went how they wanted. On a play-action pass, Warriors playmaker Tanner Story had a beautifully thrown ball land right in his hands in the middle of the field for a 30-yard touchdown reception. That touchdown made the score 21-20 and was the fifth lead change of the game.
The Warriors were driving down the field, but a miscommunication on the handoff resulted in a crucial fumble, and the Eagles fell on it to recover.
On a fourth-and-6 with little time remaining on the fourth, the Eagles went for it knowing it could be their last possession. Moore cut toward the outside and accelerated down the sideline for a touchdown to make it 26-21.
With under a minute to go, it was time for the Warriors to convert on their fourth down. On fourth-and-8, Lamonde found his favorite target on a vertical route and placed the ball perfectly onto Story's hands.
“Fun fact, that's actually my favorite play in our playbook,” Lamonde said. “I got some hard pressure from right from the [defensive] end. I had to step up in the pocket. I was thinking of running at first to get the first down, but I saw my boy Tanner Story, my go-to receiver waving his arms around, so I slung it up.”
But as soon as Story caught the pass and began pulling away from the defensive back, he tumbled down short of the goal line with an injury.
On the 1-yard line with 14.4 seconds left, Lamonde took a QB keeper in for the late touchdown to capture the lead in the final moments of the game.
“I trust my center with my life and the coach’s play-calling," Lamonde said. "I told coach not even Khalil Mack wasn’t going to stop me in that hole. I never had a doubt, it was definitely a nerve-wracking game, and I could not have been any prouder of my teammates."