All week, Augusta Christian coach Keith Walton tried to instill in his players the importance of Friday night’s game.
For the Lions, plenty was at stake: a region title, the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and an undefeated record. But when was the last time a teenager listened?
Augusta Christian came out flat, but the Lions rallied behind two Thomas Banks rushing touchdowns in the second half for a 26-12 win over Heathwood Hall.
“It’s about what I thought it would be, especially after last week,” Walton said. “You’re trying to get back up from an emotional win. We talked all week about not having that letdown.”
A week earlier, Augusta Christian (9-0) knocked off six-time defending state champion Hammond. Now, the Lions are the 1-AAA region champion who own home field advantage in the playoffs.
Augusta Christian, with its potent offense, led just 7-0 at halftime. But defense came through in a big way, thwarting three Heathwood Hall drives into the red zone. The Lions received another big defensive effort when Tyquan Burns stepped in front of a Will Detwiler pass and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown with 8:41 to go to stake Augusta Christian to a 20-0 lead.
“That was a huge game-changer right there,” Lions senior fullback/linebacker Sean Sweeting said. “Right when he got that interception you could see they were done.”
Not exactly. The Highlanders (4-5) scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes. But they couldn’t overcome Banks.
After scoring on a 15-yard run in the third quarter, Banks rumbled for a touchdown on a 33-yard run with 3:44 remaining.
Quarterback Tyler Roberson, who entered with no turnovers all season, threw two interceptions in the first half.
“That just shows how flat we were,” Roberson said. “That was just ugly.”