Eagles fall in offensive shootout

WINNSBORO It was a big offensive kind of night during Friday’s home see-saw matchup between the Richard Winn Academy Eagles and the 2016 defending State Champion Andrew Jackson Academy Confederates. When the final buzzer sounded a little over two and a half hours after kickoff, fifteen touchdowns were scored between the two teams. AJA edged out the home team to escape with a 64-44 victory that reflected more of a basketball scoreboard than a football one.

The Eagles took the opening kickoff and used the first play of the game to strike up their offense on a 45 yard TD pass play from QB Zack Taylor to Peyton Gilbert. Brandon Miller kicked the PAT to give the Eagles the early lead, 7-0, with only 21 seconds off the clock.

The visiting Confederates took just two minutes to answer back with a scoring drive by senior Bailey Ackerman as he rushed around the left side into the endzone. The two point conversion was good, and now the visitors held a slim one point advantage with 9:37 remaining in the first quarter.

The Confederates used their onside kicking game throughout the evening, and eventually it paid off. However, the Eagles fielded the next kickoff on their own 42.

Even after Taylor was hit for a loss in the backfield on the first play from scrimmage, he had the stamina left to connect with junior receiver Noah Edwards on the next play for another quick 66-yard touchdown. Miller’s PAT was good and the lead change put the Eagles up 14-8 with lots of time remaining still in the first quarter.

The Eagles swallow up the Confederate rusher and halt any progression. | Photos/Martha Ladd

AJA’s Trey Pulaski fielded Miller’s kickoff, but the RWA defense held strong and denied the Confederates a first down. Taking the ball over in good field position, Taylor caught the Confederate secondary off guard once more and sailed another 43 yard TD pass into the arms of sophomore receiver Jimmy McKeown. The PAT kick failed, but RWA increased their lead to 20-8 with 7:30 to go in the first quarter.

Not to be outplayed, the Confederates ignited their offense and rushed for their second touchdown of the quarter and tacked on a two point conversion to cut their deficit to 4, RW 20-AJ 16, with 1:10 remaining in the opening period.

AJA continued to employ their onside kicking weapon. The next one went in their favor with a recovery near mid field, and the first quarter came to a close with the Confederates on the move. The Eagle defense battled well, but not once during the game did the Confederates punt the ball away.

On a fourth-and-three play, AJA’s Ackerman rushed around the left side for his second touchdown of the evening. The two point conversion was good, and the Confederates jumped back on top of the scoreboard, 24-20, with 9:40 to go in the first half.

Answering back with another quick Eagle 40-yard TD air attack was the duo of Taylor and Gilbert again on the first play from scrimmage following AJA’s onside kick. The Eagles attempted a two point conversion pass play that was blocked, but still RWA regained the 26-24 lead at the 9:23 mark.

AJA’s Bryce Waltz received the kickoff and got to his own 27-yard line. On a 2nd and 6 play, QB Ackerman called his own number and broke away from numerous tackles to take it to the house once more. The two point conversion was successful, and again the lead see-sawed in favor of the Confederates, 32-26.

The visitors’ defense stiffened up as the Eagles started their next scoring drive. RWA gained three first downs, but eventually the drive was halted on a fourth-and-one play. The Confederates took over on downs on their own 21 yard line.

Will Carvalho (6) nearly leaves his feet to take down the competition.

Going for it on fourth-and-seven, the Confederates mishandled the football, it popped loose and bounced right into the hands of Eagle Ethan McManus who took it into the end zone for an Eagle touchdown. Miller’s PAT kick was blocked, but the score was tied at 32 midway through the second quarter.

The Confederates started their next offensive drive on their own 30. Their ground attack was moving the ball down field, but it was a TD pass completion to Connor Gleaton with 59.5 seconds left in the first half and a two point conversion by Ackerman that sent the visitors into the halftime break with an eight-point lead, 40-32.

The Confederates took the second half kickoff from deep in Eagle territory and marched downfield swiftly with an impressive ground attack but all in vain. A fumble and Eagle recovery put the ball control back in the Eagles’ hands.

Relying on prior air game success, Taylor launched a rocket that was picked off and returned to the AJA 40. After picking up back-to-back first downs, just three plays into the new drive the Confederates lit up the scoreboard for eight more points, stretching out their lead to 48-32 with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter.

Not to be discouraged, the Eagles answered back with a 24-yard TD pass completion from Taylor to senior Jonny Edenfield, but the two point conversion failed. RWA trailed 38-48 with 4:42 left in the third quarter.

Ackerman and crew drew blood once more when Ackerman rushed for another TD, and the two point conversion was good. With 2:20 remaining in the third period, the Confederates were widening the gap, 56-38.

It was in the final quarter that both teams tacked on additional points. RWA’s Taylor added a rushing touchdown, but his attempt for the extra two points failed. The Eagles narrowed the gap, 56-44 with 9:22 left in the game.

The Eagle defense made a good stand on the Confederates next possession, forcing them to turn the ball over on downs. However, deep in enemy territory, Taylor’s pass was intercepted, and the Confederates had the ball with good field position.

Pulaski called his own number once more and rushed around the right end into the end zone. The Confederates pushed the ball up the middle to get the two-point conversion and AJA seized the dominant 66-44 lead.

This was to be the final scoring drive for either team as the last six and a half minutes ticked away.

Junior Will Carvalho led the Eagle defense with 20 tackles followed by Miller with 17, Edenfield with 13 and Gilbert with 10.

The Eagles take their 4-2 record on the road to St. Matthews this Friday to face the Calhoun Cavaliers.