MILTON, Ga. — Fellowship Christian’s football team pulled up to King’s Ridge Christian School less than 15 minutes before kickoff, and once the game started, the Paladins quickly cut to the chase.
Fellowship scored a touchdown on the third play from scrimmage and scored three other times in the opening quarter, to jump out to a 28-0 lead. The Paladins went on to win 49-13 to continue their undefeated season and inch one game closer to their fourth region title in five years.
“I’m very proud of the effort on both sides [of the ball],” Fellowship head coach Al Morrell said. “The kids executed well and did what they’re capable of doing.”
As for the last-minute arrival, Morrell said he wanted to try something different, something that he hoped would get in the heads of the King’s Ridge players. The team warmed up at its own field and then rode over to King’s Ridge from Roswell.
“It’s kind of like a little ambush attack,” Morrell said. “The other team wonders where you are before the game, and then you show up and play. [The players] got excited when I told them we were doing it.”
The Fellowship bus pulled up behind the stadium around 7:15, followed by a caravan of parents and fans. The Paladins took the field for the first time a few minutes before kickoff and quickly stretched, and then it was time to play.
Senior quarterback Eli Hildebrandt connected with Brady Niblock on a screen pass, which went 35 yards for the Paladins’ first score of the night one minute into the game.
After Fellowship forced King’s Ridge into a three-and-out on its first drive, Josh Cole scored the second touchdown of the night on a 3-yard rush, giving the Paladins a 14-point lead less than four minutes into the game.
Fellowship forced another King’s Ridge punt on the next drive, and when the Paladins got the ball, they needed only one play to score. Senior Murphy Reeves took a handoff 67 yards for his first touchdown of the night, putting Fellowship in charge 21-0.
The Paladins took a 28-0 lead following an interception by Jordan Brewer that set up the offense inside the red zone. Reeves then scored his second touchdown for Fellowship.
King’s Ridge broke the shutout early in the second quarter when junior Josh Flynn intercepted a Hildebrandt pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Flynn returned the interception deep into Fellowship territory, setting up a field goal for junior Logan Hewlett to put the Tigers on the board.
Fellowship responded with their fifth touchdown. Reeves scored his third touchdown of the half on a 3-yard dive up the middle to extend the Paladins’ lead to 35-3.
The Paladins recovered a King’s Ridge fumble on the ensuing drive, setting up their offense inside Tigers territory. Fellowship scored for the final time of the first half when senior Lawson Haigler took a pass from sophomore quarterback Caleb McMickle and scored from 12 yards out to put Fellowship ahead 42-3.
With the outcome presumably settled, Fellowship and King’s Ridge played a quick second half. While the first half featured 15 separate drives, the teams combined for four drives in all the second half. Each possessed the ball twice and kept the ball on the ground to let the clock run.
The Tigers scored on both of their drives in the second half. Hewlett connected on a field goal from 41 yards, and the Tigers scored with a minute left in the game on a short rushing touchdown.
Fellowship found the end zone once in the second half on a 1-yard touchdown run by Reeves, his fourth score of the night.
Reeves, who has attended Fellowship Christian School since he was in kindergarten, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season and earned his 16th touchdown of the season. He became the school’s all-time leading rusher in an Oct. 9 win over St. Francis with over 4,000 yards in his varsity career.
He never imagined reaching the milestone, and at one point following an injury his freshman year, he even contemplated giving up on the sport and focusing on lacrosse. He stuck with football. Now he’s the top rusher in school history and a veteran leader on a Fellowship team seeking its first state title in program history.
“I think we have a great chance for a state championship” Reeves said. “It’s just great teamwork all around.”
Before the Paladins have a shot at the state championship, they’ll need to wrap up their region. Fellowship (8-0, 3-0) plays Nov. 6 at home against Mount Pisgah (4-3, 1-0). A win over the Patriots clinches a region title for the Paladins and a No. 1 seed in the Class A-Private state playoffs.
King’s Ridge (2-3, 0-2) plays at home against St. Francis (1-5, 0-1).