By Maurice Patton
FRANKLIN – Playing in the midst of a global pandemic wasn’t enough for Zion Christian and Grace Christian.
The two also endured inclement weather and a series of power outages that forced more than half of their season opener Friday to actually take place on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s the strangest, most bizarre thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Zion Christian coach Brad Lowery said following the Eagles’ two-day 47-6 road loss.
“The power went out three times. We came out and stretched, and the lights went out. We had the (national) anthem and the lights went out. Football’s a game of momentum. It was difficult for both teams.”
Less difficult, obviously, for the Lions, who gave up a touchdown late in the second quarter – and early on Saturday – but came out of a three-minute ‘halftime’ and scored four times to break the contest open.
“We just tried to stress to our guys, ‘it’s not over’,” Grace Christian coach Rusty Smith said of the message he left his players with at the end of the night Friday. “Go home and get some rest, get a good breakfast, a good lunch, and come out ready to go as best they could.
“The boys played hard, they played fast, they played for each other.”
The final power outage Friday came as Zion Christian was deep in its own territory with just under four minutes remaining in the second period and trailing 13-0. Starting Saturday with second-and-16 from their own 14-yard line, the Eagles went the distance and scored on a Davis Duffy 10-yard reception of a Luke Perko pass with 14 seconds left in the half.
The visitors couldn’t sustain that offensive success, though, and Grace’s Ashton Kelley and Blake Barton dominated the decisive third period. Barton caught a 6-yard scoring pass from Kelley to extend the margin to 20-6, then scored on runs of 12 and 3 yards before Kelley capped the quarter with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Maddux Lambert.
“We had a chance, but our numbers showed – not being able to sub,” Lowery said, referring to Zion’s depth concerns. “Not being able to do anything (preseason scrimmages), we had first-game jitters and made first-game mistakes. The kids fought hard. We just didn’t execute.”
Perko rushed for a team-high 47 yards along with 71 passing yards.
Barton finished with 137 rushing yards and three touchdowns, along with the TD reception, while Kelley threw for 135 yards and the two scores for Grace.
The win helps the Lions push past an 0-10 finish a year ago – among other things.
“This is huge for our community, our program, our families,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot going on in the last while; it’s amazing to be able to come out and start 1-0.
“It’s fun to watch, fun to see these guys play football.”
Grace Chr. 47, Zion Chr. 6
At Grace Christian Acad.
Z 0 6 0 0 — 6
G 6 7 27 7 — 47
G – Blake Barton 42 run (11:20), kick failed
G – Blocked punt recovered in end zone (10:54), Cruz Hartman kick
Z – Davis Duffy 10 pass from Luke Perko (0:14), pass failed
G – Barton 6 pass from Ashton Kelley (8:02), Hartman kick
G – Barton 12 run (5:53), run failed
G – Barton 3 run (2:06), Hartman kick
G – Maddux Lambert 26 pass from Kelley (0:09), Hartman kick
G – Will Beasley 47 pass from Jackson Hiett (6:21), Hartman kick
First downs 12 18
Rushes-yards 34-109 25-155
Passing yards 100 177
Comps-Atts-Ints 9-24-1 13-24-0
Penalties-yards 9-90 9-48
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-0
Zion Chr. – Luke Perko 13-47, Sam Duffy 7-23, Dillan Runions 5-41, Sam Sullivan 1-4, Wesley Riggins 1-(-4), Max Brown 1-(-8), Josh Harrison 2-4, Jaron Keyser 2-0, Logan Abbott 2-2
Grace Chr. – Nathan Greene 5-7, Blake Barton 14-137, Ashton Kelley 4-9, Mason Woodrick 1-(-3), Maddux Lambert 1-5
Zion Chr. – Luke Perko 7-20-1, 71, Sam Sullivan 1-2-0, 16, Jaron Keyser 1-2-0, 13
Grace Chr. – Ashton Kelley 11-22-0, 135, Jackson Hiett 2-2-0, 42
Zion Chr. – Sam Duffy 2-5, Max Brown 3-34, Davis Duffy 3-27
Grace Chr. – Nathan Greene 1-2, Maddux Lambert 4-44, Blake Barton 3-46, Will Beasley 3-80, Hudson Barton 1-10