ATLANTA — The best football season in Holy Innocents’ history ended Friday night when the Bears fell 21-7 to four-time defending state champion Eagles Landing Christian Academy at Riverwood in the Class A – Private semifinals.
HI finished the year at 12-1, their first 12-win season and first Final Four season ever.
“We played our hearts out,” coach Todd Winter said. “We played the second half the way we should’ve played the first. Still, we are suffering now, but a part of life is suffering. Still, in a couple of weeks we’ll wake up and realize we were 12-1 and had the best football team in school history.
“Also, our seniors have left a legacy here. They’ve taken this program to new heights in the last three years.”
The key to the game came with just over four minutes to play and the Bears down 14-7 and on the Charger 17-yard line. On fourth-and-1, however, the Eagles Landing defense stopped HI running back Michael Cox an inch short of the first down, resulting in a turnover on downs.
On the Chargers’ second play of the ensuing possession, running back Keaton Mitchell raced 83-yards for a score to put Eagles Landing up 21-7.
Holy Innocents’ got the ball back one more time and drove to the Charger 37 before again turning it over on downs. The Chargers then ran out the clock to end HI’s golden season.
The Chargers scored on their first possession of the game, going 61 yards in 12 plays and ending with a 16-yard pass to go up 7-0.
Two mistakes kept the Bears off the scoreboard from there. The visitors recovered a Bear fumble early in the second quarter, resulting in a 49-yard scoring drive by Eagles Landing to put them up 14-0.
Just before the half, Eagles Landing ended a potential Golden Bear drive with an interception at their 29.
The Bears didn’t quit. On their first possession of the second half, Holy Innocents’ drove 67 yards in nine plays to get back in the game at 14-7. Matt Davis had a key run on third-and-long, and Cox added some short runs before Davis finished the march with a 35-yard run off right tackle.
In the final period, the Bears’ defense remained solid until Mitchell’s long run late in the game.
Bears’ punter Marshall Nichols had a great game, with one effort over 60 yards. Sam Aiken had a key sack, Hunter Hawk was solid defensively, and Davis and Cox picked up tough yards on offense. The Bears will graduate 16.