Saint Stephen’s Episcopal took the Coral League championship trophy with a 40-20 win over Seven Rivers Christian on Saturday night.
Relying on the running game that got them there, the Falcons ran through the Warriors all night, benefitting from numerous missed tackles. The Falcons (10-1) get a chance next week to win their first state championship in the program’s 12-year history.
“The idea that we’re going to play for a state championship, it’s hard to wrap our brains around,” head coach Tod Creneti said. “It’s something we really thought of all year.”
For the Warriors (8-3), it was a disappointingly close call to a state title berth, and another loss to a familiar foe following their consolation game loss to the Falcons last season.
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“I’ve never been this close to the biggest game I’ve ever played in my life,” senior running back Josh Iwaniec said. “It’s hard to see it slip away from just a few mistakes.”
Whether it was missed tackles, fumbled snaps or even a fumble by the sure-handed Iwaniec early in the game to end a potential scoring drive, the Warriors were close to turning momentum around. Then a turn of fortune turn momentum to the Falcons.
Falcons running back Chase Brown darted and dashed past tackles for his sixth 100-yard game, racking up 214 yards on 17 carries, scoring four touchdowns. When the Warriors found ways to contain him, they still had quarterback Fred Billy to worry about.
Billy finished with 12 rushes for 160 yards and a touchdown throw. His counterpart, senior Broughton Martin, completed 11 of 21 passes for 139 yards for the Warriors.
Overcoming several failed fourth down attempts, some leading to scores, Martin did his best to lead his team back, just to see mistakes negate a major momentum swing.
With his team trailing 33-20 and 4:51 left in the game, he connected on a 24-yard pass to Caleb Fagan, energizing players and fans. But a fumbled snap the next play resulted in a huge loss, with the Warriors eventually turning the ball over on downs.
The Falcons added their last points that ensuring drive.
Martin, who transferred to Seven Rivers this season, said afterward, “They’ve welcomed me in just like a family and I appreciate everything they’ve done for me. It’s a real heartbreaking thing but it is what it is.”