After playing a half with neither side seizing momentum, Christ’s Church Academy head coach Jim Stomps decided to gamble with his team’s first-round playoff hopes.
Bradenton Christian (4-5) never saw it coming.
An on-side kick to open the second half not only led to a 51-yard drive, it allowed the Eagles to hold on for a 21-18 victory in the opening round of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference playoffs.
Bradenton Christian, which was making its first playoff appearance, didn’t make it easy, especially after it got the ball at its own 48 with 2:23 remaining. But three consecutive incomplete passes ended the threat.
“We had our best game we ever had,” Panthers wide receiver Kevin Etienne said. “We worked for this. We had our chances. It’s not as good as we thought it would be, but it was our best.”
Etienne caught one pass for 21 yards in the first half. Teammate Bathie Thian also only caught one pass — an 80-yard touchdown from Dominick Otteni.
After Christ’s Church (8-1) pushed its lead to 21-10 following the early second half recovery and touchdown drive, the Panthers turned their speedy receivers loose.
Thian finished with six catches for 134 yards; Etienne had five catches for 78 yards.
“The coaches wanted to run the ball,” Thian said. “It was a good game plan. We just left too many plays out there. This is our best game of the year. But we’ll be back next week. It all came down to that one big play (on-side kick) at the end.”
The Eagles got a 1-yard touchdown run by D.J. Lampp and a 4-yard TD run by Johnny Gullet in the first half.
Gullet, a 5-foot-7 running back, finished with 157 yards on 19 carries.
Lampp ran 44 yards for a score three plays after Christ’s Church recovered the kickoff to start the third quarter.
“We knew we had to be aggressive,” Stomps said. “It was such an even battle and (the Panthers) got that (32-yard) field goal (by Thian) right there at the end (of the first half). I knew they were going to get the ball first in the second half, so we decided to kick the ball on-side. That was the play that helped us turn the tide.”
Christ’s Church 21,
Bradenton Christian 18
Christ’s Church Academy
CC– D.J. Lamp 1 run (Anderson Tucker kick), 6:39
BC– Bathie Thiam 80 pass from Dominick Otteni (Thiam kick), 1:29
CC– Johnny Gullet 4 run (Tucker kick), 3:32
BC– Thiam 32 FG, 1:47
CC– Lamp 44 run, 10:18
BC – Kevin Etienne 15 pass from Otteni (Thian kick), 8:27
Rushing: Bradenton Christian: Jordan Miller 7-55, Dominick Otteni 10-(-2). Totals: 17-53. Christ Church: Johnny Gullet 19-175, D.J. Lampp 21-97, Mitchell Tucker 2-8, Josh Dennie 1-4, Adam MacManus 1-0, Jared Carwile 3-(-14), Team 3-(-3). Totals: 50-249.
Passing: Bradenton Christian: Otteni 12-23-2, 217. Christ Church: Carwile 5-13-0, 107, Lampp 0-1-0.
Receiving: Bradenton Christian: Thian 6-134, Etienne 5-78, Ben Anderson 1-5. Christ Church: Lampp 1-45, Ethan Powell 1-5, Brett Fowler 1-7, Dennie 1-22, Ben Anderson 1-28.