Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School’s junior running back Chase Brown ran for 143 of his game-high 167 yards and two touchdowns in the second half as the Falcons advanced to the Sunshine State Athletic Conference’s Coral League championship game with a 34-14 victory against visiting Zephyrhills Christian at the Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Field on Friday.
With the game tied at 7, Brown took his second handoff of the second half 24 yards to the end zone with 7:33 left in the third quarter. He collected 61 of the Falcons’ 65 yards on the next drive, which was capped by quarterback Fred Billy’s 2-yard touchdown run that proved the decisive score.
“We just had a huge intensity boost,” said Brown, whose 15-yard touchdown run with 1:25 left served as an exclamation point. “Coming out of (halftime), coach (Tod Creneti) told us that we needed to pick it up. That’s what got us into a groove and we ended up pounding the ball well.”
The performance gave Brown 1,115 rushing yards on the season. Billy finished with 162 yards of offense, with 76 yards coming on a touchdown pass to Peyton Vining on the third play from scrimmage.
Saint Stephen’s was flirting with disaster late in the first quarter and it struck following a holding penalty, block-in-the-back penalty and a sack as Billy mishandled a snap. The Warriors’ Malik Jones recovered the fumble at the Falcons’ 5. A 5-yard touchdown run by Alonzo Sampson on the next play and an ensuing extra-point kick by Kollin Eckel tied the game at 7 with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
“(Zephryhills Christian) is a very physical team and it was a faster team,” Creneti said. “They brought the game to us in the first half. We were trying to catch and react on both sides of the ball. Defensively, we played great in the first half. We gave those seven points away with the turnover. Offensively, I don’t think we were accustomed to having someone be that aggressive with us. We needed some time to think it through and remind our kids what we are capable of.”
Sydney Brown gave the Falcons some breathing room with a 47-yard punt return for a touchdown with 9:52 left. Zephryhills Christian (8-2) got as close as 14 with 4:24 remaining on John Emmanuel’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Samuel.
Saint Stephen’s, the Coral League’s Bay Division regular-season champion, has won nine straight since dropping its opener. The Falcons will play at Orange Division champion Seven Rivers Christian next Friday in Lecanto.
Seven Rivers Christian defeated Christ’s Church Academy of Jacksonville 27-20 in the other league semifinal.
Saint Stephen’s 34, Zephyrhills Christian 14
SS — Peyton Vining 76 pass from Fred Billy (Alex Virgilio kick), 10:28
ZC — Alonzo Sampson 5 run (Kollin Eckel kick), 1:45
SS — Chase Brown 24 run (Virgilio kick), 7:33
SS — Billy 2 run (run failed), 0:03
SS — Sydney Brown 47 punt return (Virgilio kick), 9:52
ZC — Calvin Samuel 13 pass from John Emmanuel (Eckel kick), 4:24
SS — Brown 15 run (Virgilio kick), 1:25
Rushing: Zephyrhills Christian 43-178: Emmanuel 13-64, Sampson 7-51, Samuel 8-46, Mykh'ael Chavis 11-16, Javan Smith 4-1. Saint Stephen's 37-235: Brown 18-167, Billy 17-62, Jordan Murrell 2-6.
Passing: Zephyrhills Christian 3-9-0-26: Emmanuel 3-6-0-26, Chavis 0-2-0-0, Samuel 0-1-0-0. Saint Stephen's 3-11-0-100.
Receiving: Zephyrhills Christian: Samuel 2-21, Smith 1-5. Saint Stephen's: Vining 1-76, Jordon Murrell 1-13, Brown 1-11.
Who: Saint Stephen’s at Seven Rivers Christian
What: Coral League final
When: Saturday, TBD
Where: Seven Rivers Christian School, Lecanto