Saints hold off Rebels with two-point conversion stop

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 1, 2006

CLINTON &8212; Football is a game of inches, and a few inches of FieldTurf at Robinson-Hale Stadium were the difference between winning and losing for the Trinity Saints Thursday afternoon.

Leading 28-27 with 1:55 to go in the game, the Saints (12-2) stopped a Briarfield Academy (11-3) two-point conversion attempt about six inches from the goal line to preserve the win.

The win gave the Saints their third championship in school history, with the previous two coming in 1989 and 2001.

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Trinity running back Stevan Ridley, playing on a high ankle sprain, carried the ball 51 times for 319 yards and two scores.

&8220;I don&8217;t even want to say (how bad I feel). (My ankle) hurts so much it&8217;s gross,&8221; Ridley said. &8220;I talked to my brother (Chad Ridley, a 2002 Trinity graduate), and he won a state championship when he was a senior. He told me I&8217;d feel better when I had ice on my ankle and ice on my finger.&8221;

The Saints held a normally high-powered Rebel offense in check throughout much of the game, but turnovers and miscues, along with a determined Briarfield squad, kept the game close.

&8220;Briarfield kept coming,&8221; said Trinity head coach David King, who took home his second championship as head coach. &8220;They did their city proud and their association proud. I stressed to our kids all year that our worst had to be better than somebody else&8217;s best, and today our worst was better than their best.&8221;

Things started off with a bang for Trinity, as freshman R.J. Fleming returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to give the Saints a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point.

Undeterred, Briarfield answered right back on a wacky play when a Jamie Fortenberry pass intended for Stephen Landreneau was deflected, bounced off two Saint defenders and into the waiting arms of Rebel tight end Jon Jon Taylor for a 73-yard touchdown. Stephen Hernandez&8217;s extra point gave Briarfield a 7-6 lead with 10:01 remaining in the opening quarter.

Early in the second quarter, with the Saints leading 12-7, things seemed to be leaning Trinity&8217;s way after an impressive Matthew Freeman interception on the 10-yard line and a long, sustained drive that ate up much of the quarter.

Things turned around in the blink of an eye when Fortenberry picked off a Ridley pass and returned it 40 yards to the Trinity 48 yard line. A few plays later, Craig Lebeau found Taylor again for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Rebels the lead at 14-12 heading into the locker room.

After holding Briarfield to three-and-out on the first drive, the Saints drove down the field and scored on a three-yard run by Ridley to take back the lead, and Ridley then converted a nifty jump pass to Wells Middleton for the two-point conversion to give the Saints a 20-14 lead.

Briarfield answered with 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter when Taylor caught his third touchdown pass of the game, this time a 10-yard catch from Fortenberry. Hernandez&8217;s extra point gave the Rebels the lead back once again.

Ridley was able to get into the end zone once again with 7:02 left in the game as he scored from three yards out and ran for the two-point conversion to give the Saints a 28-21 lead.

After forcing Briarfield to turn the ball over on downs, Trinity appeared to have the game sewed up, but fate intervened.

Facing fourth-and-one at their own 30 yard line, head coach David King elected to go for the first down rather than punt. A direct snap to Ridley was mishandled, and Briarfield recovered on the 27-yard line with just over two minutes to play.

&8220;We had the doggone first down, we just fumbled it,&8221; King said. &8220;I&8217;d have gone for that every time.&8221;

Three plays later, Lebeau hooked up with Fortenberry for a 23-yard touchdown on fourth-and-six to pull the Rebels within one.

Rather than go for the tie and overtime, Briarfield coach Lance Prine elected to go for two. A handoff to Hall Schneider was swarmed under by the Saint defense, and Schneider just missed reaching the end zone.

&8220;Coach called a rollout pass, but he said if the dive&8217;s open, take it,&8221; Fortenberry said. &8220;I thought it was open, so I went for it. They just stopped it.&8221;

&8220;I know Lance and I knew he was going to go for it,&8221; King said. &8220;I would have done the same thing. They didn&8217;t deserve to go away with the red trophy (presented to the runners-up).&8221;