It all comes down to this for the St. John’s Christian Academy football team. If the Cavaliers can clear the last hurdle, they’ll go down as the best SCISA 8-man football team in the state for the 2019 season.
St. John’s Christian (10-1) will tangle with unbeaten Andrew Jackson Academy at 7 p.m. Friday at Calhoun Academy in St. Matthews. The Cavs make their first appearance in a state championship since 2012, when they lost to Wardlaw Academy in a barnburner. The Cavs also finished runner-up in 2004 and 2005 to Jefferson Davis.
They last won a football title in 1989 when the school was named Lord Berkeley Academy.
Andrew Jackson looks like the ultimate final test for the Cavs. The run-heavy Confederates have outscored opponents 656-66 with seven shutouts on the slate. They grind down defenses with an option attack and have been as stingy as any unit in the state on the other side.
“They’re obviously a very good team,” said Cavs coach John McCall, a player for SJCA in 2004 and 2005 and assistant coach in 2012. “They’ve got a lot of depth and they’re very good up front. They’ve got about four or five guys who can carry one to the house on you.”
The Confederates (11-0) have won three straight in the series, including a 32-24 victory in Ehrhardt Sept. 20. Andrew Jackson also won encounters in 2017 (80-26) and 2016 (52-40).
“That game we played last time could have gone either way,” McCall said. “It was a ballgame to the end. Maybe the ball will bounce our way this time.”
Each team scored four touchdowns but Andrew Jackson converted all of its two-point plays while the Cavs were 0 for 4 on conversions after touchdowns.
“Our success rate on 2-point conversions since that night has gone way up,” McCall said. “They understand the importance of getting those.”
Andrew Jackson advanced to the final with a 60-0 win against Palmetto Christian Friday and routed Calhoun Academy 50-20 in the first round.
The Confederates won three straight titles from 2015-17 before falling to Beaufort Academy in the championship last season.
McCall believes his squad is battle-tested. The Cavs have been in a few four-quarter games this fall, including Friday’s contest.
St. John’s Christian used a fast start to edge Richard Winn. The visiting Cavs raced out to a 22-0 lead in the opening period and held on, 28-21, to advance.
“I was real proud of the kids,” McCall said. “They fought hard to the very end.”
The Cavs, who edged Clarendon Hall 44-32 in the first round, got 219 yards and two touchdowns rushing from quarterback Nai’Ryan Bookert and 146 rushing yards and a score from Fletcher Law.
Bookert ignited the opening salvo with a 69-yard touchdown scamper and Bryce Ellison followed with a 1-yard plunge. Law got loose on a 70-yard romp to make it 22-0.
Richard Winn closed within 22-14 in the second quarter but Bookert answered with a 43-yard score to put the Cavs on top, 28-14.
The lone score in the second half came in the third quarter by Richard Winn.
Jaden Bradley led the St. John’s Christian defense with 18 total tackles while Law kicked in 13 stops, including three tackles for loss. Bryce Taylor made eight tackles and Rochard Tingue added seven tackles.