With last week’s painful loss to Dominion Christian glaring Crown in the face, the Knights bounced back to beat the Mustangs, last season’s champion of the Glory for Christ Football League.
The first quarter got off to a promising start when running back Darrien Zackery ran for a quick touchdown. But too many fumbles and blunders by Crown (2-1) allowed East Atlanta to take a 12-7 lead by the end of the second quarter.
Knights coach Chip Buhler lamented the team’s early struggles.
“Early on, we turned the ball over and our defense was having trouble covering guys,” he said. “They had some pretty good athletes, and we had guys making mistakes. We dropped the ball too many times (Friday night) and that’s how we got behind.”
By the end of the half, the Mustangs scored another touchdown and a safety, raising the score to 22-7.
Crown, however, was determined not to let East Atlanta score again.
Finally, in the last few minutes of the third quarter, quarterback Hamilton Armour connected with receiver Simeon Buhler and ended the quarter with a 26-yard touchdown pass. The point after by A.J. Redlinger brought the Knights up to 22-14.
Chip Buhler said the reason behind the Knights’ turnaround was simple.
“We changed our defense for the second half and they played well,” he said. “The offense started scoring points, so it’s that simple.”
A second touchdown by Simeon Buhler brought the score to 22-20, further diminishing East Atlanta’s lead.
Under the increased pressure, the Mustangs began slipping up, and another fumble presented Crown with a chance to score again. With 1:35 seconds left in the game, the Knights finally retook the lead with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Armour to Zackery.
When a Mustang pass fell short, it was intercepted by Daniel Matteson, who dashed to the 6-yard line, where he was finally brought down. The next play, fullback Jonathan Emmons — who also led Crown with eight tackles —shoved his way through the defensive line to score the first touchdown of his career.
The Knights shut down a last-ditch effort by East Atlanta when middle linebacker Brady Warren intercepted a pass to end the game.
“We’re proud of our guys for coming back after being down and having a tough first half,” Chip Buhler said. “They showed perseverance and determination, and we’re most proud of them for doing that — not giving up and not quitting when they got behind and made mistakes, even turning it around and making it a great game and winning at the end. We are encouraged by that.”
Center Jesse Heard was in high spirits after the game, but admitted he and his teammates needed to work on a few plays if they wanted to maintain a winning streak in the weeks to come.
“We did good, but I think we need to figure out how to run in the whole — in the first and second quarter, and not just try to win in the fourth quarter because it’s a four-quarter game,” Heard said. “You can win in the fourth quarter, but we also need to win in the first, second, and third.”
Chip Buhler acknowledged several players who contributed to the win.
“Our defensive tackle, Jordan Roberts, had his best game ever, dominating with tackles for losses,” Buhler said. “A.J. Redlinger hit extra points and pounded three kickoffs into the end zone, a feat that is rare in high school football.”
Offensive coordinator Darin Armour felt the win was a telling moment for the team.
“I think, if we hadn’t lost that game last week, we wouldn’t have won this game,” Armour said. “You know, sometimes it takes a game like that to lose to make you have the heart to come back.”