E.A. Sports Today

Historic Burns

Coosa Christian ousts Spring Garden from Class 1A playoffs on Burns’ field goal in final 10 seconds

By Shannon Fagan
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

SPRING GARDEN – The first time Spring Garden and Coosa Christian clashed this football season, the Panthers were the more physical team. Their paths crossed again Friday night in the second round of the Class 1A state playoffs, but this time the roles were reversed.

Coosa senior running back Jy Mostella ran for 197 yards on 21 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but the game hinged on junior kicker Jadan Burns.

Burns earned redemption from a missed kick against Valley Head earlier this season that could’ve won the Class 1A Region 7 title. This time, he connected on a 21-yard field goal with 9.5 seconds remaining to lift the Conquerors past fifth-ranked Spring Garden, 31-28.

The win is just the second in postseason history for the Conquerors (8-4), who now host Lynn in next Friday’s third round. Spring Garden’s season ends at 10-2.

“You’ve got to give them credit. They made the plays at the end,” Spring Garden coach Jason Howard said. “I felt like they were more physical than they were earlier in the year. They took it to us. They were able to stuff a lot of the things we did. They established the line of scrimmage. I thought they ran the ball really well. I felt like they had a good game plan. I feel like they did about everything they had to and executed it to a ‘T’.”

Coosa Christian head coach Mark O’Bryant said he’s trying to model the Conqueror football program after what Howard has done with the Panthers.

“They play really, really physical, and to be frank, we are trying to build this program mirroring what they have done. I want to build like they’ve built,” O’Bryant said. “(Howard) is a phenomenal coach and we have the utmost respect for that bunch.

“Our kids played hard, and I’m really, really proud of them. We’re down a road this school’s never been down. This is all new territory for us. We’re just grateful, blessed and thankful.”

With the game tied at 28 after Mostella caught a tipped pass for a 20-yard touchdown with 3:23 remaining, Spring Garden drove inside Conqueror territory. However, the Panther drive stalled and the offense was put into a fourth-and-11 situation at the Conqueror 41.

Howard took a timeout and decided to go for it, but Chapel Pope’s pass fell incomplete and the Panthers turned the ball over on downs.

“We felt like we had to go win it in regulation,” Howard said. “We thought we’d have trouble in overtime.”

With a short field and 1:02 left to play, the Conquerors had just enough time to manufacture the game-winning drive.

Quarterback John David Justus connected with Jacoby Tucker three times on the drive, with Tucker’s last catch a 37-yard dagger down to the Panther 8. The Panthers were called for holding two plays later, which pushed the ball down to the 4.

Burns then booted what turned out to be the game-winning kick.

“He (Burns) was really down on himself because we lost the region championship after he missed a last-second field goal,” O’Bryant said. “He had a chance to redeem himself in a little bigger atmosphere. It was great for him, and I’m glad for him because he really works hard. It took a toll on him when he missed that field goal against Valley Head. I’m really, really proud of him for redeeming himself.”

Spring Garden had one last chance on the ensuing kickoff, which was lateraled several times before the Conquerors recovered the ball and the clock hit zero, ending the Panthers’ season.

“I felt like our kids played hard. I just hate to see them lose a game like that,” Howard said. “I was really proud of the way they played. They’ve had a good run.

“I think they overachieved from what anybody thought they would’ve done at the first of the year. Nobody hardly believed they would’ve won 10 games after everybody we’ve graduated the past couple of years. I’m proud of this group, for the young ones stepping up and the older ones showing some leadership. I’m real proud of them.”

Pope provided the Panthers a 14-0 lead with a 55-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Haney with 3:24 left in the first quarter and a 19-yard run early in the second.

Mostella ran in for the Conquerors’ first touchdown on a 23-yard carry with 9:55 to go in the first half. Following a Panther punt, Justus connected with Tucker on a 72-yard score to tie the game at 14 with 6:38 left in the second quarter.

Tucker tallied five catches fro 139 yards and a touchdown. Justus completed 6-of-20 pass attempts for 159 yards and two scores.

Spring Garden regained the lead on Pope’s 4-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive, which gave the Panthers a 21-14 edge at halftime.

Pope finished the game rushing for 133 yards and two scores on 20 carries. He also completed 6-of-12 pass attempts for 88 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions – both by Panther senior defender Reece Winstead.

Spring Garden attempted to extend its lead with the opening possession of the third quarter, but Cam Welsh missed a 33-yard field goal.

From there, the Conquerors marched 99 yards in just four plays, capped off by Mostella’s 51-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 21.

But just two plays later, Connor Bates put the Panthers back out in front 28-21 with his 71-yard touchdown run. He led Spring Garden’s ground attack with 179 yards on 18 carries.

Coosa accounted for the game’s final two scores of the game on Justus’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Mostella with 3:23 to go and Burns’ game-winning kick.

Shannon Fagan is Sports Director for WEIS radio.

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