The night started with a bang but ended with a thud as the Appalachian Eagles fell 27-23 to the Victory Christian Lions at Pell City last Friday night.
Appalachian came up short on a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-goal from the 1 with less than :20 to play when Zach Blythe was ruled down just short of the goal line.
The game started like the night would belong to the Eagles. The crowd was just settling in when Appalachian’s Dylan Schuman fielded the opening kickoff at the Appalachian 4, found a seam, and scorched the earth on a 96- yard return.
However, the Lions came to play. Victory Christian rallied to take a 20-17 halftime lead thanks to an offense that kept the Eagle defense guessing throughout the first half.
Lion quarterback Michael Kirby repeatedly found open receivers running through the Eagle secondary, mainly Jordan Grimmer. The rangy senior grabbed seven passes for 142 yards and touchdowns of 10 and 65 yards.
In the first half Kirby completed 13 of 20 passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns.
Appalachian was solid and efficient on offense in the first half with 129 yards – 63 on the ground; 66 through the air – while Victory was explosive with 252 total yards.
The third quarter was rough for the visiting Eagles.
Despite a pair of interceptions by Jonathan Metzler, the Eagle offense could never capitalize. Appalachian was hit with four major distance penalties over the first half of the third quarter and Victory Christian finally made the visitors pay with a 48-yard touchdown drive to take a 27-17 lead with 4:56 to play in the quarter.
The Victory touchdown seemed to wake up the visitors. The Appalachian offense spent the next four minutes pounding the Lion defense into the soggy turf on a drive that went 58 yards in eight plays.
Schuman scored on a 3-yard run with :46 left in the quarter to cut the lead to 27-23 but the extra point from Junior Guerra sailed wide.
The Eagle defense had finally gotten the Lion offense under control and the Appalachian offense was given two more chances.
However, the Eagles could not capitalize until the late stages of the game when the special teams made a play.
On 4th-and-8 from the Victory 19, Kirby tried to surprise the Eagles but was dropped at the 21 with less than two minutes to play.
Appalachian got runs from Schuman and Blythe to move the ball to the Victory 1 but Blythe was ruled down on the sneak to end the game.
The Eagle defense slowed down the Lion offense in the second half but the home team still put 344 yards of offense.
Appalachian got a solid night on offense with 254 total yards.
Quarterback Jeremy Hill completed 13 of 16 passes for 89 yards while Blythe completed his only pass for 14 yards.
Cameron Cox was the leading receiver with five catches for 35 yards. Jacob Chappelle caught three for 41 yards.
Schuman had 67 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and Tonny Strickland battered his way to 49 yards on nine attempts.
Victory Christian improved to 5-1 on the year, 3-1 in 1A Region 5. Appalachian dropped to 4-2 on the year, 3-1 in the region.