Aquinas wins thriller to advance to state championship

Aquinas 17, Mount Pisgah 16

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Through the rain, the screaming and hugging continued. Griffin Scott stood at midfield in his muddied jersey and fell onto the soggy field.

He wanted to make a mud angel.

This has never happened before, so Aquinas celebrated any way it could.

The third-seeded Irish will play for their first state football championship after they scored a touchdown and made an extra point with 19 seconds to go to win at second seed Mount Pisgah Christian, 17-16, Friday night in a Class A private state semifinal.

Aquinas will play Calvary Day at 2:30 p.m. next Friday at the Georgia Dome for the title.

With a third down at the Patriots’ 5, Aquinas quarterback Liam Welch found John Morris for the score. Justin Thompson’s extra point was the decider.

“It’s a crazy feeling,” Scott said. “I absolutely love every part of it, though. I love my team, my family. My team is my family.”

Down 16-10 after an Aaron Winchester 14-yard touchdown run that came before a missed extra point, the Irish (13-0) got the ball at their 35 with 5:32 to go.

With constant rain pouring down, Aquinas marched 15 plays for the score despite facing two fourth downs. With only two passing yards to that point, Welch went 3 for 4 for 18 yards and also had 14 rushing yards on the final drive.

“Liam is maybe the best competitor I’ve ever met,” Irish coach James Leonard said. “He was screaming to throw the ball, so we said, ‘To hell with it. Let’s throw the ball.’ ”

Ruben Garnett, who battled through an injury just like last week, rushed for 28 yards on the winning possession.

Mount Pisgah (12-1) tried to pull a miracle, but the last throw of the game was tipped and fell incomplete. Winchester rushed for almost 100 yards and threw for 65 yards in the loss.

Winchester’s backfield mate Browning Dunn had the first long play in the game when he burst for 75 yards on his team’s first offensive play. That tied the score at 7 after Garnett dirtied his jersey with 12 touches and all 58 yards on the game’s first drive. He took pitches, draws and hand-offs to power forward and avoid tacklers.

The game remained stuck at 7 for a while, with the Irish offense struggling. But the Aquinas defense stood tough in important stops. The Patriots’ next three drives reached as far as the Irish 10, 21 and 39 but Mount Pisgah came up empty. Besides an intentional grounding penalty, the Irish also had a fourth-and-inch stuff and a third-down sack.

The Patriots’ biggest first-half mistake came on an Aquinas punt, as Mount Pisgah couldn’t handle it and the Irish fell on the ball. Mount Pisgah had another miscue a few plays later, when a facemask on what should have been the second quarter’s final play gifted Aquinas with another chance. Thompson then drilled a 44-yard field goal for the 10-7 Irish lead after the first half.

“He’s the best field goal kicker in the state,” Leonard said. “I don’t think he knows what ‘pressure’ means. It doesn’t matter the down or distance. We know he’s going to make it.”

Thompson also delivered with punts as long as 54 and 56 yards before he made the extra point that soon won the game.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Scott said. “We pulled through in the end.”

Aquinas 17, Mount Pisgah 16

PLAY OF THE GAME: Down six late, Aquinas scored a touchdown when Liam Welch hit John Morris for a 5-yard pass. Justin Thompson then kicked the extra point for the lead.

STAR OF THE GAME: Thompson kicked a 44-yard field goal, made both extra points and kept getting lengthy punts.

WHY AQUINAS WON: The Irish won the special teams battle and had the clutch drive late.

WHY MOUNT PISGAH LOST: The Patriots had key mistakes in important spots.

NEXT: Aquinas vs. Calvary Day in the Class A private state championship, 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Georgia Dome.

AQUINAS 17, MOUNT PISGAH CHRISTIAN 16

 

Aquinas 7 3 0 7 – 17

Mount Pisgah 7 0 3 6 – 16

First Quarter

A-Ruben Garnett 1 run (Justin Thompson kick), 6:00

MPC-Browning Dunn 75 run (Chase Clark kick), 5:45

Second Quarter

A-Thompson 44 field goal, 0:00

Third Quarter

MPC-Clark 18 field goal, 6:48

Fourth Quarter

MPC-Aaron Winchester 14 run (kick missed), 5:36

A-John Morris 5 pass from Liam Welch (Thompson kick), 0:19

 

 AMPC
First Downs1116
Rushes-Yards42-12041-252
Passing Yards2065
Comp.-Att.-Int.8-12-05-10-0
Fumbles-Lost2-02-1
Punts-Yards7-39.43-46.7
Penalties-Yards8-707-50

Penalties-Yards 8-70 7-50

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Rushing: MPC-Dunn 13-143, Winchester 23-91, Ben Miller 3-19, Oz Dixon 2-(-1); A-Garnett 33-110, Welch 7-13, Morris 1-4, TEAM 1-(-7).

Passing: MPC-Winchester 5-10-0 65; A-Welch 8-12-0 20.

Receiving: MPC-Dunn 1-28, Dixon 2-24, Jacob Delk 1-8, Miller 1-5; A-Antonio Clark 1-9, Morris 1-5, Chris Lambert 1-4, Daniel Lindsey 2-3, Garnett 3-(-1).

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