ROSWELL, Ga. — Fellowship Christian captured its second Region 6-A championship in four years with a decisive win over previously unbeaten Darlington (9-1, 6-0) Friday night at home.
The matchup featured two teams ranked in the top-5 of the Class A-Private standings sporting 9-0 records, but the contest was far from close. For the ninth time this season, Fellowship (10-0, 7-0) scored over 40 points and held their opponent to fewer than 10 points for the fourth time.
“We’re very excited, it’s been a great year,” Fellowship head coach Al Morrell said. “We have a really good group of seniors, and I’m very proud of the boys and the assistant coaches. We are happy to be where we are right now.”
Entering the contest, Morrell knew solid play in the trenches would be crucial. Darlington had a size advantage, including Georgia-commit Tate Ratledge, but the Paladins held their own and used their speed to exploit the perimeters. Fellowship racked up 430 total yards with 372 coming from the rushing attack.
Leading the rushing charge in yardage was Murphy Reeves, who carried the ball 23 times for 176 yards with a touchdown. Josh Cole led the Paladins in scoring with three touchdowns and 108 yards on the ground, including an 82-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Eli Hildebrandt did most of his work with his legs, rushing for 53 yards and a score with 15 yards passing.
The Tigers compiled 355 total yards, but their only scoring drive came in the second quarter. Fellowship’s defense forced three turnovers and a turnover-on-downs in the red zone to keep Darlington at bay.
Cole recovered a fumble and led the team with seven tackles while Lawson Haigler and Garrett Hauenstein had interceptions.
The Tigers were held to 2-11 on third down conversion attempts.
“[Darlington is] very balanced, they can run the ball and they are good at throwing, so I’m very proud of our defensive effort,” Morrell said.
Fellowship jumped out to an early lead with Hildebrandt’s 12-yard touchdown run. They extended the margin to 14-0 with a halfback pass from Joey Archer to Bryce Paul for a 43-yard score.
Darlington responded with a touchdown, but Fellowship added short touchdown runs from Reeves and Cole before the half to lead 28-7 at the break. After a scoreless third quarter, Cole busted off his 82-yard score and found the end zone for a third time with a 2-yard score midway through the final period.
With the win, Fellowship captured its first Region 6-A title since 2016, the Paladins’ state runner-up season. With the region crown in hand, the Paladins will now look to make a run in the postseason.
Fellowship entered the game ranked 7th in the power ratings, and as of Nov. 9, they had jumped to No. 6. That rating should remain depending on appeals, which will be finalized Nov. 11.
The Paladins will assuredly remain in the top-8 of the power ratings, which will give the team a bye in the first round of the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.
The bye week will not change Fellowship’s focus, Morrell said.
“We are just going to be proactive and continue to do what we do and be ready to go,” he said. “Right now, the boys are playing with a lot of confidence and having fun.”