Saints stay alive with 40-39 win

Published 1:30 am Saturday, October 29, 2016

By Jamey Lanier

The Meridian Star

The Generals of Newton County Academy High School and the Saints of Trinity Episcopal Day School squared off in the first round of the MAIS Classes A-AA playoffs and gave the fans their money’s worth.

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In the end, the Saints squeaked out a 40-39 victory, with the game’s winning score coming with 4 seconds left to play.

Kevontaye Caston found younger brother Jakarius Caston in the end zone from 65 yards out to tie the game 39-39, and Grant Falkenheiner nailed the PAT to extend the Saints’ season.

Prior to Trinity’s last touchdown, NCA took the lead on a Braxton Rose 6-yard touchdown run, his third offensive score of the night, with 2:01 to play and Dawson Blackledge bulled in for the two-point run to give the Generals a 39-33 lead to set up the Caston-to-Caston heroics.

Generals coach Rob Roberts wouldn’t let the sting of a season ending loss take away from his team’s effort.

“After a game like this, to battle and then lose on the final play, you just tell the

kids the truth, that you love them and you’re proud of each one of them,” Roberts said. “We weren’t as athletic as Trinity, but our character is the core of this team; we just fight and leave it on the field.”

Saints coach Graham Roberts was elated by his squads performance.

“I’ve got two kids that are brothers, the quarterback and the receiver,” Graham Roberts said. “Last week, our quarterback wanted the ball with it all in the line. This week, the wide receiver wanted it. Man, I’ve got an awesome group of kids.”

NCA jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the game’s first series as Blackledge reeled off 53 yards on four totes to set up a Braden Smith quarterback sneak from a yards out with 7:46 to go in the first.

Trinity answered with a 51-yard, six-play drive, with David Jackson finding paydirt with 6:18 remaining in the first frame.

The Generals fumbled the ball away on the ensuing series to set up the first Caston-to-Caston score, a 65-yard bomb to put the Saints up 13-7 at the 3:49 mark still in the first period.

NCA moved the ball up and down the field in the first half, but Trinity made big play after big play to hold the Generals’ offense scoreless for the remainder of the half.

Rose got the Generals’ other first-half score when he stepped in front of a Caston pass and returned it 30 yards for a pick-six and knot the score at 13 with just 1:45 remaining in the half.

That was all the time the Saints needed to drive down for a 4-yard Keyvontaye Caston scoring run to give the Saints a 21-13 advantage at intermission.

The Generals went 95 yards in 14-plays on their first offensive possession in the third quarter, with Blackledge gaining 53 of those yards to set up a Dalton Hollingsworth 1-yard scoring run to narrow the gap to 21-19 with 4:01 to play in the third quarter.

The Saints needed only 1:38 to answer with a Sterling Yarbrough 1-yard run to make it 27-19 in favor of the Saints.

Rose took control on the Generals’ next possession and finished off the drive with a 4-yard scoring scamper to make it 27-25 Trinity with 11:53 to go in the game.

Smith intercepted Caston on the Saints’ next possession, and the Generals capitalized when Rose scored from a yard out to give NCA a 31-27 lead with 7:21 remaining.

Caston broke loose on a scramble that ended with a 36-yard score to make it 33-31, and NCA answered right back with Rose’s third offensive and fourth overall score to give the Generals a 39-33 lead and the Saints the ball with 2:01 remaining. That set up the final theatrics that gave Trinity the 40-39 win.

Rose ended the night with 145 yards on the ground with three rushing touchdowns and a pick-six on defense. Blackledge carried the ball 25 times for 213 yards.

Newton County Academy ended its season at 7-4, while Trinity (4-6) will advance to the second round of the MAIS Classes A-AA postseason.