WARRIORS defeat Country Day to head to the semifinals for the first time in school history!
on November 29, 2013 10:05 p.m.
All season Country Day has ground up opponents with its split-back veer offense, utilizing its two-headed monster rushing attack of running backs Andrew Kern and Jase Griffin.
When Kern was lost to what appeared to be an ankle injury on Country Day’s second offensive series during Friday night’s Division IV Select quarterfinal playoff game against St. Frederick, the Cajuns had to adjust their strategy.
There was nothing subtle about the adjustment. Enter the spread formation, shotgun snaps and Michael Mann attempting 36 passes en route to 233 yards passing. The drastic shift almost worked, but Mann and Country Day couldn’t quite match St. Frederick senior quarterback Seth Christian.
Christian rushed for 269 yards and four touchdowns, had a 55-yard interception return, converted four extra-point kicks and rocketed a punt 54 yards to help lift the Warriors to a 34-20 victory against Country Day at Country Day.
Christian, who St. Frederick Coach Jeff Tannehill said was nursing a sore back earlier in the season, also helped hoist up a little school history as lagniappe, as St. Frederick’s football team advanced to the semifinals for the first time.
The Warriors (9-4), seeded sixth in the Division IV bracket, advance to face No. 7 Southern Lab, which defeated No. 2 Ouachita Christian 20-14. Christian had scoring runs of 93, 7, 24 and 4 yards, and he helped the Warriors build leads of 14-13 at halftime, 20-13 in the third quarter and scored the game’s final two touchdowns after the score was tied at 20.
“My offensive line played the best they have played all season,” said Christian, who helped spark 443 yards of total offense for the Warriors. “There were huge holes; I just had to run through them. … I didn’t have to carry the load, just contribute my part.”
When Country Day (10-2) moved its focus to passing, the game seemed to become a duel featuring Mann’s passing and Christian’s running.
“He (Christian) was good, real good,” Country Day Coach Richard Wood said of the St. Frederick quarterback. “We tired to corrall him and tried to go right after him. He broke our backs; he was good.”
Said Tannehill: “The last three or four games he has played unbelievable. He had that back injury since August and struggled the first half of the season.”
Still, Tannehill admitted his team had spent a week preparing for the veer running offense and he had hoped his team could take away the run and force the Cajuns to pass, maybe not quite that successfully. He said he was impressed with Country Day’s passing game and that the opponent didn’t seem to struggle with moving from its usual game plan.
Wood gave credit to his players for their adjustment. After Kern left the game, Mann began to distribute the ball to a slew of receivers and sprinkled in some handoffs to Griffin. Country Day tied the score at 20 in the third quarter and twice had drives in the fourth quarter with a chance to tie the score.
“It was a change in game plan, but our receivers are great during practice,” Mann said. “They did great, and I knew we had a chance. I wasn’t too surprised we got it going. We got into passing rhythm quickly.”
Said Wood, who added the best guess on Kern’s injury was a high-ankle sprain: “With (Andrew) Kern out, it’s like playing with a three-legged dog. With him out, it changed our game plan. We had to pass, and the kids responded and did well.”
Mann completed 22 of 36 passes and tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Robert Livaudais. Trey Harrell had nine receptions for 104 yards, and Livaudais caught eight passes for 90 yards. Griffin finished with 105 yards on 18 carries and scored on runs of 2 and 3 yards.
But Christian and St. Frederick seemed to have an answer each time Country Day gained some momentum.
The Warriors rushed for 425 yards. DeMone Jones had 64 yards rushing and a touchdown and Ron Morris finished with 63 yards rushing. Christian also passed for 18 yards.
St. Frederick led 14-13 at halftime and scored first in the second half to extend its lead to 20-13. Country Day answered on its first possession of the second half. Mann's touchdown pass to Livaudais tied the score at 20 with 4:30 to go in the third quarter.
St. Frederick and Christian had a response.
Facing fourth-and-1 at Country Day's 24-yard line, Christian scampered 24 yards down the left sideline and dove into the end zone late in the third quarter to give the Warriors the lead for good at 27-20.
Still, the Warriors twice had to thwart potential score-tying drives by Country Day and Christian was in one of the key plays.
First, Country Day drove to St. Frederick 6-yard line, but the Warriors forced a fumble with 9:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. On the Cajuns' next possession, Christian intercepted a pass at the St. Frederick 31 and returned it 55 yards to set up his eventual game-clinching 4-yard run touchdown run with 1:54 to go.
Despite the tough ending for Country Day, Wood said it was, “an awesome season!”