It was Monday night football done right. Tabernacle Christian constructed a beautiful offensive effort to outlast Victory Christian 48-30 in the Christian Football Association semifinals, pairing the Torches (6-4) with Russell Christian (10-1) in the CFA finals on Friday night in Tuscaloosa.
That leaves Tabernacle with just four days to prepare for the two-time defending CFA champions.
“Man, it’s a short week and we are beat up right now; that was a physical game,” said Tabernacle head coach Keith Dabbs following the win. “Tomorrow, we’re going to go with helmets and just go get loose, throw the ball around a little bit and talk about what we’re going to try to do Friday night.”
The Torches fell to Russell 61-8 on Sept. 27 and suffered a 52-14 defeat at the hands of the Warriors in last year’s championship game.
“When we played them before our offense did not produce first downs… so we have got to be hard-nosed enough to go make first downs against those guys and we’ve got to throw the ball just well enough to back their safeties up; man, they walked eight guys right down in the box when we played them last time,” said Dabbs.
If Monday night is any indication, Tabernacle should be capable of providing a vertical passing threat on Friday night. Quarterback Drew Peters didn’t go to the air often against the Lions, but his six attempts resulted in four completions for 83 yards and two touchdowns (all in half No. 1).
“We had some big scores that the running game set up,” said Dabbs. “Our running game was working well enough that Drew hit some big passes in the first half and made some drives easier than grinding it out.”
Peters hung the ball up for a wide-open Austin Sutterlin for a 34-yard score on the first play of the second quarter. The long connection converted a third-and-11 and put the home team out front 20-6.
His second TD toss went to Josiah Davis from 16 yards out, capping a five-play, 36-yard drive that sent Tabernacle to intermission with a 34-18 advantage. The pass sailed a little high, but Davis—the team’s primary running back—climbed high enough to get both hands on the ball for a crucial fourth down conversion.
Peters also dropped a 36-yard pass to Trae Andrews down to the Victory 2-yard line, setting up his team’s second score of the night—a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a 14-6 lead midway through the first.
The Torches found paydirt on seven of their eight possessions, the last of which ate up 11 snaps and emptied the final several minutes off the game clock.
“We just kept making first downs,” said Dabbs. “We just kept pounding it. In the second half we just ate clock and the defense made a few stops.”
Most of the pounding came courtesy of Davis, who ran the rock 32 times for 201 yards and three touchdowns against the Lions. His late-second-quarter reception gave him four total touchdowns for the game.
“Josiah is as hard-nosed a player as you’ll find. Even when he has very little blocking, he goes and makes things happen,” said Dabbs.
Tony Pedraza provided some relief in the backfield in the second half, and put the final points on the board with a 3-yard race to the pylon early in the fourth quarter.