A stout performance by the defense helped the St. Pius X Golden Lions earn a trip to the Georgia Dome to play for the Class AAA state title.
The Golden Lions (12-2) beat the North Hall Trojans (11-3) 31-6 on Dec. 7 in the Class AAA playoff semifinals. Although the offense put up 31 points, it was the defense who were the silent heroes of the game. Head Coach Paul Standard said his defense played their hearts out.
“They beat a team tonight that averaged 40 points a game,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable how they played.”
The defense got it going early in the game, forcing North Hall to a three-and-out. The Trojans tried to go for it on fourth and 14 on St. Pius X’s 45-yard-line, but Golden Lions defensive tackle Kyle Johnson sacked North Hall quarterback Bradley Brown.
St. Pius X offense took it from there. On the next play, quarterback Jack Spear ran 53 yards to the end zone untouched to give the Golden Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The defense stopped North Hall again on a fourth down play in the red zone, but Spear was intercepted a couple of plays later by North Hall’s Destin Bennett on a tipped pass.
That turnover turned into a 30-yard touchdown pass from Brown to wide receiver Lee Shelton. A missed extra point still had St. Pius X in the lead 7-6.
The Golden Lions offense went three and out on its next possession, but defensive back Matt Pearson got the ball back for the offense after intercepting a Brown pass. A 38-yard touchdown run by fullback Ryan Braswell gave his team a 14-6 lead before halftime.
The defense continued its dominate performance in the third quarter, forcing a three-and-out for North Hall. A 27-yard pass from Spear to running back Branden Mitchell set up a Braswell 4-yard touchdown run to give St. Pius X a 21-6 lead.
The defense stepped up again late in the third quarter, stopping North Hall running back Andrew Smith on fourth-and-2 from the North Hall 39. That stop gave St. Pius X offense a short field and Spear hit tight end J.P. Graves for a 38-yard touchdown pass.
An interception by St. Pius X linebacker Daniel Crochet in the fourth quarter led to a field goal.
Standard said his team did a great job.
“I feel so great for our kids who have just worked their tails off,” he said. “It’s every team’s dream to get to the state championship. I’m proud of these young men.”
The defense will have to put on a similar performance when the team faces the Buford Wolves in the state championship game on Dec. 14. The Wolves (11-3) is playing in the state championship game for the 11th time in 13 seasons and will play for its ninth state title in school history.
St. Pius X will try to win its second state title in school history. St. Pius X’s only state title came in 1968. Game time is 5:30 p.m.
Marist 27, Ridgeland 28
A missed potential game-winning field goal as time expired ended the championship hopes for the Marist War Eagles. Marist (21-1) lost to Ridgeland (13-1) 28-27 in the Class AAAA playoff semifinal game on Dec. 7.
The War Eagles were up 27-21 in the fourth quarter, but Ridgeland drove 77 yards on 11 plays and quarterback Darrell Bridges connected with receiver Shaqualm McCoy on a 24-yard touchdown reception to give Ridgeland a 28-27 lead.
Ridgeland will play in the championship game for the first time in school history on Dec. 15 against Sandy Creek.