By Jim Bratton
MT. PLEASANT — A goal-line stand in the last seconds helped Zion Christian earn a 34-27 win Friday night over host Mt. Pleasant.
Trailing late, the host Tigers converted a fourth down-and-12 with a 30-yard Te’Varius Strayhorn pass to Demarkus Brown and took advantage of a pair of penalties in moving to the Zion 9-yard line.
But on the final play of the game, Mt. Pleasant’s Zavier Davidson was stopped short of the end zone as the Eagles sealed the victory.
“Our kids have got a ton of heart,” Zion Christian coach Brad Lowery said. “Coach Bronson (Bradley) did an outstanding job. Coming off of fall break, we didn’t even practice last week at all.
“The truth of it is, we are at a spot with our numbers, that we ask our kids to do multiple things, play multiple positions” Lowery said. “We got some kids banged up, and our kids adjusted well. They did exactly what we asked them to do. Special teams helped us a lot, we knew going in it would. And to have a goal-line stand, I mean, that’s what Friday nights are for.”
The Eagles (4-4) got on the board first at the 7:10 mark of the first quarter when quarterback Luke Perko connected with Wesley Riggins on a 19-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers struck first at the 1:10 mark of the opening quarter, when Davidson ran it in from 3 yards out.
In the second quarter, Zion pushed its lead to two scores with two more touchdown passes from Perko, both to Max Brown; the first coming at the 5:54, and the second coming with just eight seconds left in the half.
In the third quarter, the Tigers started battling back. Mt. Pleasant (1-6) scored just three plays into its opening drive of the second half, with Davidson reached paydirt on a 15-yard run at the 10:59 mark, to cut Zion’s lead to 20-13.
Davidson tied the ballgame up at 20 with another TD run at the 5:22 mark of the third quarter, this one from one yard out.
Zion regained the lead at the 10:05 mark of the fourth quarter, when Perko raced into the end zone from three yards out. The Tigers matched that score at the 5:23 mark, when Keevon Cooper scored from 13 yards.
On the Eagles’ next drive, Perko scored again on a 1-yard run, setting up the game’s final stages.
“I thought the first half, we were very inconsistent,” Mt. Pleasant coach Bronson Bradley said. “They got up on us, they had two onside kicks they got back, and did a good job on getting the ball and taking care of their football. So, they did a good job of taking care of the football and doing what they needed to do.
“So, I give all the credit in the world to Zion. They’ve got some great kids, great quarterback, great receivers, the line did what they needed to do to score points. And we knew they could score points, they’ve got a great offense.”
Perko wound up throwing for 203 yards, completing 18 of his 28 attempts to seven different receivers. Davidson, meanwhile, rushed for 88 yards to lead a Mt. Pleasant offense that finished with 209 total yards.
“The game plan will take care of itself when you get your attitude right, and that’s what we had to work on at halftime,” Bradley said. “So, we got them in there, got them straightened out, and they came out with a better attitude and a whole lot more fight in the second half.
“We just came up short trying to battle back. We couldn’t get a stop when we needed it. And that’s our problem; we’re kind of young, and just inconsistent right now, which comes with the territory when you’re a young team and just trying to win games.”
Zion Chr. 34 , Mt. Pleasant 27
at Mt. Pleasant Memorial Stadium
Z 7 13 0 14 — 34
M 6 0 14 7 — 27
|ZC — Wesley Riggins 19 pass from Luke Perko (7:10), Riggins kick|
|MP — Zavier Davidson 3 run (1:10), kick failed|
|ZC — Max Brown 46 pass from Perko (5:54), run failed|
|ZC — Brown 49 pass from Perko (0:08); Riggins kick|
|MP — Davidson 15 run (10:59), Collier kick|
|MP — Davidson 1 run (5:22), Collier kick|
|ZC — Luke Perko 3 run (10:05), Riggins kick|
|MP — Keevon Cooper 13 run (5:23), Collier kick|
|ZC — Perko 1 run (1:26), Riggins kick|
|Zion Chr. — Luke Perko 17-66, Sam Sullivan 1-1, Dillan Runions 3-10, Josh Harrison 2-0|
|Mt. Pleasant — Zavier Davidson 23-88, Ladontay Patton 4-22, Keevon Cooper 1-12, Jerimiah Dobbins 2-12, Te’Varius Strayhorn 3-(-3)|
|Zion Chr. — Luke Perko 19-29-1, 253, Wesley Riggins 0-1-0, 0|
|Mt. Pleasant — Te’Varius Strayhorn 5-8-0, 95|
|Zion Chr. — Sam Duffy 2-13, Wesley Riggins 5-35, Sam Sullivan 3-42, Max Brown 4-131, Davis Duffy 2-13, Dillan Runions 1-5, Josh Harrison 2-14|
|Mt. Pleasant — Ladontay Patton 1-17, Demarkus Brown 4-78|