Tough Loss

Sad Ending: FCS Varsity Football Squad Falls to Stratford Academy in Second Round of GHSA Championships

The hole was just too big to climb out of.

The Fellowship Christian School football team could not overcome a 27-7 third-quarter deficit in its GHSA Football Class A Championships second-round game at Stratford Academy in Macon on Nov. 17. The Paladins lost 36-22 to end their second consecutive trip to the state playoffs, a school record.

Despite a couple of spectacular offensive plays, a fourth-down defensive stop forcing an Eagle punt to start the fourth quarter and a missed Stratford field goal with 2:13 to play, the 22nd-seeded Paladins could not pull out a victory.

FCS ended its school-record second consecutive winning season with a 7-5 record. The sixth-seeded Eagles (10-1 overall) moved on to the quarterfinals.

Stratford took a 27-7 lead on a 35-yard interception return and extra-point kick with 9:27 to go in the third quarter. The Eagles scored 16 of their 36 points in the third quarter. The Paladins added 15 of theirs in that quarter.

Senior Casey Barham returned the ensuing kick off 98 yards for a touchdown, and senior Jack Berends kicked the second of two straight extra-point kicks to pull Fellowship to within 13 points.

Following a Stratford field goal with 1:36 left in the quarter on its next possession, senior Merrick Haigler tip-toed the sidelines on a 75-yard sprint for a score. Senior James Milhollin took a reverse handoff from junior Cam Cochran for the two-point conversion to pull FCS to 30-22 with 1:11 left in the third.

But the Paladins could not get any closer.

Stratford tacked on a rushing touchdown later in the fourth. The Paladins stopped the conversion attempt, but the Eagles led by 14.

Fellowship took a 7-0 lead with a 52-yard touchdown pass from junior Brooks Bryant to Haigler just 1:56 into the game.

The game was tied 7-7 after the opening quarter on the first of four TD runs by Stratford (5 yards). The Eagles held a 14-7 halftime advantage following a 50-yard second-quarter TD run.

The Eagles extended the lead to 20-7 just a minute into the second half on a 65-yard touchdown run.

Haigler, one of several seniors playing their last football game at Fellowship, led the Paladins with 135 yards on 11 attempts with one TD, but also had a fumble (one of two FCS turnovers). Bryant was next with 31 yards on eight scrambles.

Bryant finished his junior season with 119 yards passing (7-of-19). Five different Paladins hauled in his passes at Stratford, including Haigler (one for 52), Milhollin (one for 35), Barham (three for 12), junior Cameron Gill (one for 12) and Cochran (one for eight).

The Eagles outgained FCS, 380-276, in the contest. FCS picked up 157 rushing yards in the contest, but Stratford gained 307 on the ground.

Gill and junior Reed Bott led the Paladin defense with 12 tackles apiece. Gill made seven solo stops and Bott added five to go with a sack and two tackles for a loss. Senior Matt Morton recorded nine tackles and six assisted stops, and senior Matt Curry recorded seven tackles (five assists).

Season Stat Recap

Haigler finished his career with 13 touchdowns and 1,030 yards on 144 carries, all team highs, in just nine games. His brother, freshman Lawson Haigler, was second on the club with 735 yards and six TDs on 133 carries in 10 contests.

Bryant played in all 12 games and completed 100-of-173 pass attempts for 1,826 yards and 18 TDs. He was intercepted six times and sacked just three times in his first varsity season at the helm.

In his first varsity football season, Barham led the Paladins with 53 catches, 880 receiving yards and seven receiving TDs. Milhollin was next with 350 yards and five scores on 15 catches. The senior also collected 251 yards on the ground with three more scores.

Senior Billy McCurry led the Paladins with 98 tackles, 45 solo stops, 15 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss. Morton made 86 tackles, including a team-high 65 assisted stops. Curry finished with 84 tackles (61 assists) and Gill added 82 (36 solo).

Playoff Game Preview

FCS Travels to Macon to Face Stratford Academy in Second Round of GHSA Football Championships

It's pretty simple. The Fellowship Christian School football team will have to execute better on Friday.

"I was very pleased with the effort at George Walton Academy [41-35 overtime victory]," head coach Al Morrell said. "But we will need to execute much better against Stratford. We fought hard in that game, but we made a couple of costly mistakes. Our execution needs to be better. We have had a couple of very good days of practice, and the boys are very excited to play on Friday. We believe we can win."

Stratford Academy (9-1 overall) enters Friday's GHSA Class A Private School Football Championships second-round game against the 7-4 Paladins coming off a bye week. The Eagles' last game was a 30-27 loss to Aquinas of Augusta at home that snapped a nine-game win streak on Nov. 3. They are the sixth ranked squad and FCS is 22nd.

"They are a solid program," Morrell said. "They have the best defensive line we have faced this season. It will be a challenge to block them. Their team is very well coached."

Execution against the Eagles is the main key for Fellowship, according to Morrell. The coach added that his club needs a solid effort on offense and defense.

The Paladins have out gained their opponents 4,281 to 2,966 this season.

On the ground, the Paladins have picked up 2,468, led by the Haigler brothers. Senior Merrick leads the way with 133 carries, 895 yards and 12 touchdowns, while freshman Lawson has collected 733 yards and six TDs on 131 carries. Senior James Milhollin has added 263 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 39 attempts.

Junior Brooks Bryant, coming off a huge 282-yard and four TD effort at George Walton, has thrown for 1,707 (93-for-154) of FCS' 1,813 passing yards. Bryant has thrown for 17 touchdowns.

Senior Casey Barham is Fellowship's top receiver with 50 catches for 868 yards and seven touchdowns. Milhollin has grabbed 14 passes for 315 yards and five scores. Junior Cameron Gill has hauled in 12 passes for 294 yards and four TDs.

Billy McCurry has recorded 95 tackles to pace the Fellowship defense. The senior defender leads the team with 44 solo stops, 15 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss.

Seniors Matt Morton and Matt Curry have registered 77 tackles apiece. Morton leads the team with 59 assisted tackles, and Curry is next with 56.

Post-Season Volleyball Honors

Anello Receives All-State Honorable Mention; Austin and Exley Selected for All-Region Team

Fellowship Christian School varsity volleyball players Gabriella Austin, Natalie Exley and Grace Anello – all seniors – have received post-season honors.

Austin and Exely were named to the All-Area team, and Anello was selected to play in the Senor All-Star Game and received All-State Honorable Mention.

Anello led the lead with 214 kills, and Austin was third with 148. Anello ranked third with 43 aces, and Exely was fourth with 38. Austin's 36 total blocked shots led the Lady Paladins, who finished 31-14 overall as a team.

Exely's 338 digs were second on the squad, and Anello was next with 309. Anello and Exley were second and third on the Fellowship team in serve receiving with 369 and 335, respectively.

Both Exley and Austin were named to the All Area Tournament Team.

Softball Players Honored

Swartz and Kierpa Named to All-Region Softball Team

Seniors Cameron Swartz (infielder) and Lauren Kierpa (pitcher) were named to the First and Second Teams,

respectively, of the All-Region Softball Squad.

They helped the squad finish 5-11 overall and advance to the GHSA Class A Softball Championships.

Swartz batted .475 with 19 hits (five for extra bases), six RBIs, 13 stolen bases and four walks. Kierpa notched four victories, a 3.96 earned run average and 78 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings. She allowed 67 hits and 33 runs.

At the plate, Kierpa hit .392 with 20 hits (three for extra bases), 10 RBIs, eight stolen bases and three walks.

Swartz played in 45 games during her FCS career, notching 66 hits (43 singles, 10 doubles and 10 triples) in 131 at-bats. She's the school's all-time leader in triples, home runs (three) and RBIs (44).

A pitcher and infielder, Kierpa finished her FCS career with school records in games pitched (59), innings pitched (218 innings), wins (22), losses (29) and strikeouts (318). She notched a 4.79 earned run average for her career.

She is Fellowship's all-time leader hitter in hits (78), singles (58), doubles (17), runs (74) and hit by pitches (11). She also collected 40 RBIs, three triples and a .441 batting average during her FCS career. She's second all-time at FCS in triples and RBIs.

Miracle in Monroe

Paladins Edge George Walton Academy in Overtime to Advance to Second Round of GHSA Class A Private Football Championships

The Fellowship Christian School varsity football squad picked the right time to pull out a close game.

After three late fourth-quarter losses this season, the 7-4 Paladins stepped up when it mattered most to post a thrilling come-from-behind 41-35 overtime victory over George Walton Academy in Monroe on Nov. 10 in the opening round of the 2017 GHSA Class A Private School Football Championships.

Of the Paladins' four losses this season, three came late in games over a four-contest stretch from Sept. 29 to Oct. 20. But this time it was Fellowship's turn to win a close one. The average of the team's other six wins was 28.3 points.

On Friday night, there were plenty of heroics for the Fellowship squad, which travels to face No. 6 Stratford Academy in Macon on Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in a second-round matchup.

In Monroe, junior quarterback Brooks Bryant had a monster game for Fellowship, completing 11-of-19 pass attempts for 282 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for the tying score and tacked on the conversion run with 3:39 to play. His 282 yards is the third-highest single-game pass total in school history. His older brother Hunter collected 320 passing yards in a 38-33 win over Whitefield Academy on Oct. 4, 2013, and also had 301 yards in a 27-24 overtime loss to Christian Heritage on Nov 8, 2013 in a crossover game.

Friday's game featured three ties (7-7, 21-21 and 35-35) and four lead changes.

FCS got the ball first in overtime and had the ball spotted at the 15-yard-line per GHSA rules. Following a pair of movement penalties, the Paladins were pushed back to the 25. But Bryant picked up 13 yards on a scramble, and three plays later senior Merrick Haigler scored on a 3-yard run. Bryant was stopped on the conversion run, but the Fellowship defense came up big on the Bulldogs' overtime possession to seal the victory.

The Paladin defense stopped the Bulldogs (seeded 11th out of the 24 playoff clubs) for a short gain on a 4th-and-2 play from the 7-yard-line to end the contest. The team gained eight yards on three previous run plays. Junior Cameron Gill, who had three stops in overtime, finished with team highs in total tackles (18), solo stops (seven) and assisted tackles (11). Senior Matt Morton made 11 tackles (nine assists) and senior Matthew Curry registered 10 (four solo).

The 22nd seeded Paladins, who were the 2016 GHSA Class A Private School Football Championship runners up, tied the game with 3:39 to go on Bryant's 13-yard run and his two-point conversion to tie the game at 35-35. The Paladins covered 65 yards in just 1:05. Bryant finished with 57 yards on seven scrambles, and Haigler collected 79 yards on 21 attempts.

Senior Casey Barham caught six passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Cam Cochran hauled in two passes for 49 yards, and Haigler grabbed one pass for 35 yards (it was a TD). Gill finished with three catches for 31 yards.

Barham caught a 67-yard TD pass just 20 seconds into the game. Senior Jack Berends kicked the first three extra points.

Following a George Walton rushing TD later in the first quarter, the Paladins scored the next two TDs on Barham catches (34 and 38 yards at 10:11 and 5:04 in the second quarter) to take a 21-7 lead.

The Bulldogs cut the lead to 21-14 with a 25-yard TD run with 1:50 left in the opening half. They tied the game at 7:54 of the third quarter, 21-21, before Haigler's touchdown reception put the Paladins back on top. The team could not convert the two-point conversion attempt, but led 27-21 at 4:46 of the third.

George Walton went back ahead 28-27 on a 20-yard touchdown run at 8:26 of the fourth quarter. Following an interception, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 35-27 on a 15-yard run with 4:44 to play.

Morrell is now 34-21 all-time at FCS.

Signing Day

Three Female FCS Athletes Sign on the Dotted Line on National Signing Day

Three members of Fellowship Christian School participated in a Signing Day event held at the school on Nov. 8.

The athletes included Cameron Swartz – NCAA Division I University of Colorado (Basketball), Meredith Moore - NCAA Division I Presbyterian College (Lacrosse) and Lauren Kierpa - Covenant College (Softball).

Swartz, also a star softball player at FCS, announced her commitment to Colorado in February 2017. She was named to the First Team All Region Basketball Squad in February 2017, and has topped 1,000 career points at FCS.

As a junior, Moore was named 2017 GHSA Girls Lacrosse All State (1A-5A) Honorable Mention. Last season Moore ranked first on the team with 64 ground balls and 32 takeaways, and was named FCS Defensive Player of the Year.

A pitcher and infielder, Kierpa finished her FCS career with school records in games pitched (59), innings pitched (218 innings), wins (22), losses (29) and strikeouts (318). She notched a 4.79 earned run average for her career.

Kierpa is Fellowship's all-time leader hitter in hits (78), singles (58), doubles (17), runs (74) and hit by pitches (11). She also collected 40 RBIs, three triples and a .441 batting average during her FCS career. She's second all-time at FCS in triples and RBIs.

(Photo submitted by FCS Marketing and PR Department)

Fresh Start in Postseason

FCS Varsity Football Team Travels to George Walton Academy to GHSA Class A Private School Championships

It will be like playing in a second opening night game for the Fellowship Christian School varsity football squad.

The 6-4 Paladins visit Monroe on Friday night (Nov. 10) at 7:30 p.m. for an opening round game of the 2017 GHSA Class A Private School Football Championships against George Walton Academy.

"Friday is like starting the season over again," head coach Al Morrell said. "Records don't matter at this point. We are focused on going 1-0 each week, and keeping our season going. We are super excited and optimistic about the game."

The Paladins, the 2016 GHSA Class A Private School Football Championship runners up, enter the game against George Walton with the No. 22 slot in the latest rankings. The Bulldogs, who lost to the Paladins in the playoffs at Bob Lord Field last November, enter the contest at No. 11.

"They are a very good program," Morrell said about the Bulldogs. "They finished 7-3 in a very tough Region. It will be a very tough game for us. They basically run the same offense and defense as Bowdon does, but are much better. They probably throw the ball a little bit more too. The boys are excited about the game, and the opportunity to play in the playoffs."

The Paladins beat Bowdon High School, 35-7, in the crossover game on Nov. 3 to assure the squad of its second straight winning season and its back-to-back trip to the state playoffs – both school records.

Those accomplishments are very important to the Paladins, especially the team's seniors.

"That group has a little fear of failure," the coach said. "So making the playoffs and going 6-4 so far have been a big relief. But they want to keep on winning football games."

To do that at George Walton, Fellowship will have to control the Bulldog quarterback, not let them sustain long drives, mix up the pass and run on offense and control the line of scrimmage.

"We need to do what we normally do," Morrell said. "We have to play solid up front, show balance on offense and block their defensive front, which looks very strong."

Fellowship has shown balance on offense this season, notching 3,806 yards (1,488 passing and 2,318 rushing).

Senior Merrick Haigler tops the team with 11 rushing touchdowns and 816 rushing yards (112 carries) in just seven games. His younger brother, freshman Lawson, leads the team with 131 touches and is next with 733 yards and six TDs in nine contests. Senior James Milhollin has collected 247 yards on 36 carries and has three rushing TDs.

Brooks Bryant has completed 82-of-137 pass attempts for 1,425 yards and 13 touchdowns. The junior quarterback has been intercepted four times, and sacked on just three occasions.

Senor Casey Barham leads the team with 44 catches and 658 yards. Milhollin is next on the club with 14 catches and 315 receiving yards. Junior Cameron Gill has collected nine catches for 263 yards, and junior Cam Cochran has grabbed 11 passes for 98 yards.

Milhollin tops the Fellowship offensive unit with five touchdown catches. Both Barham and Gill have four.

The rock of the FCS defense all season has been Billy McCurry, who leads the team with 86 total tackles, 40 solo stops, 14 sacks and 23 tackles for loss. Seniors Matthew Curry (48 assisted stops) and Matt Morton (team-high 51 assisted tackles) have recorded 69 and 66 tackles, respectively.

Major Milestones

State Playoff Bound: Paladins Rout Bowdon, 47-12, to Notch Second Straight Winning Season and Trip to GHSA Single A Private School Championships

Fellowship Christian School's varsity football reached two very big milestones on Friday night.

With a 47-12 blow out win over Bowdon High School in a crossover game played on Nov. 3 at Bob Lord Field, the Paladins improved to 6-4 overall and assured its second consecutive winning season, a new school record. The team notched another school record by qualifying for its second straight trip to the GHSA Single A Private School Championships. The team was state runner-up last December.

The six victories is the third-highest single-season win total in FCS varsity football history, including last year's 13-1 season and an 11-2 mark in 2007. Over the past two campaigns, Fellowship has won 19 games to notch the most wins over consecutive seasons in school history.

"It feels great," head coach Al Morrell said following the historic victory. "The kids played hard. I am proud of the kids. It was tight in the first half, but we made some adjustments at halftime, executed well, played clean football and had a very good second half on both sides of the ball."

The Paladins, who entered the game No. 23 in the state rankings, wound up 22nd in the final rankings. FCS travels to Monroe to face No. 11 George Walton Academy in the opening round of the GHSA Class A Private School Football Championships on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. The top 24 Class A Private schools qualified for the postseason, with the top eight squads receiving first-round byes like FCS did last season.

Morrell is now 33-21 as a head coach at Fellowship, and is the first FCS head coach to lead the program to back-to-back winning seasons.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," Morrell said when reminded about the team's accomplishments following the spirited contest. "It feels great to get back to the state playoffs. It's our goal to go 1-0 every week and extend the season. [Last year's title game run] gives the team more confidence, but especially the seniors. I am proud of this team for all the setbacks we have overcome this year. We won and lost some close games and had plenty of injuries to fight through. But it's time to stop building character, win some playoff football games and keep on playing."

On Friday, the Paladins opened up a 20-12 halftime lead but out scored the Red Devils 27-0 in the second half to put the game out of reach for the Red Devils.

Junior quarterback Brooks Bryant threw three touchdown passes and 240 total yards, and scored on a pair of 1-yard keepers to lead FCS. Fellowship gained 409 total offensive yards, including 169 yards on the ground, and the defense held the Red Devils to 241 total yards (178 rushing and 63 passing).

Senior Merrick Haigler started off the scoring with a 2-yard TD run in the first quarter. Senior Jack Berends booted the first of his five extra-point kicks.

Following Bowdon's second-quarter TD pass play that went for 19 yards (conversion run stopped), the Paladins jumped back ahead 14-6 on Bryant's 45-yard TD pass to junior Cameron Gill at 6:29.

Bowdon scored another touchdown minutes later, this one on an 8-yard run. But FCS stopped the conversion play and then went back on top 20-12 on Gill's second TD pass (this one for 60 yards) late in the first half.

In the second half it was all Paladins.

The team scored on both of its possessions in the third quarter on drives of 64 and 51 yards, both capped by Bryant's 1-yard plunges into the end zone. The first one came at 5:56 of the quarter, and the second followed after a Bowden punt at 2:17. Fellowship led 34-12 after three quarters.

In a heated fourth quarter, Bryant connected with senior Casey Barham on a 35-yard TD pass play on a 4th-and-10 play with 7:38 left in the game. That put FCS up 41-12. Sophomore Trexton Lewis closed the scoring on a 5-yard TD run with 52 seconds left. The two-point conversion run failed.

Bryant completed seven of his 11 pass attempts to set a career-high for yardage. Gill led the team with four catches, two touchdown grabs and 146 receiving yards. Barham grabbed two passes for 66 yards, while senior James Milhollin added one catch for 28 yards.

Haigler led the Paladins with 120 yards on 23 rush attempts. Next on the team in rush yards was sophomore Blake Scott, who gained all of his 30 yards on four carries during the final 40-yard scoring drive.

Billy McCurry, a senior, led the FCS defense with 10 tackles (five solo stops, five assists), one sack and two tackles for loss. Senior Matthew Curry registered eight tackles (four solo) and senior Matt Morton added seven tackles (five assists). Milhollin finished with six stops, including a team-best six solo stops.

Bowdon, which is located in a village of the same name near the Georgia-Alabama border, fell to 2-8 overall with the loss.

(Photos by Margo Miller)

Eighth Place in States

FCS Girls Cross Country Squad Competes at State Meet, Keim 12th

The Fellowship Christian School girls cross county squad finished eighth among 16 Class A teams at the GHSA Cross County Championships held at the state course in Carrollton on Nov. 3.

Senior Caroline Keim placed 12th among 113 runners in the Class A girls varsity race.

"She finished her high school career in outstanding fashion," head coach Tom Harrison said.

Freshman Sami Rickheim finished in 20th place, her sister, junior Liv Rickheim was 34th and freshman Faith Cole was 40th.

"Priscilla Lorenzo, Anna Ashworth and Sophia Klatt rounded out our team," Harrison said.

Varsity Football Crossover Game Preview

Paladins Seek Win to Guarantee Second Straight Winning Season, Earn Trip to State Playoffs

Al Morrell does not want to take any chances.

"This game is a must-win for us [to reach the state playoffs]," Morrell said about Friday's crossover against Bowdon High School. "I don't know all the scenarios if we don't win [about state playoffs], but I would say a win is a must for us."

The Paladins host Bowdon High School of western Georgia for the first time ever in varsity football in a crossover contest at Bob Lord Field on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

"They're actually very similar to us," Morrell said. "They run a Wing T offense and have a similar defensive set. It's kind of like playing ourselves like we do every day in practice. We probably throw the ball a little more, but we are similar."

A victory will assure the Paladins of its second straight winning season and will solidify a second consecutive trip to the GHSA Class A Private School Championships – which would be a school record in both cases.

The keys to the game for FCS will be to move the football consistently, show good offensive balance, stop the Red Devils' run game and not let them sustain long drives, according to Morrell.

"We have had a good week of practice," Morrell said. "The kids are focused, and have shown enthusiasm and good execution. We hope that all carries over into the game on Friday night."

Bowdon, which is located in a village of the same name near the Alabama border, enters the game with a 2-7 overall record. The Red Devils have lost three in-a-row, including a 36-28 home setback to North Cobb Christian School on Oct. 27, and have dropped five out of their last six contests overall.

The Paladins (5-4 overall) downed King's Ridge Christian Academy, 35-7, at Bob Lord Field on Oct. 27.

Overall, the Paladins have outgained their opponents 3,402 yards to 2,363 this season. Fellowship has earned 2,155 yards on the ground, and 1,247 yards through the air.

Freshman Lawson Haigler tops the team with 131 carries and 733 yards. Senior Merrick Haigler is next with 89 attempts for 705 yards. Merrick tops the team with 10 rushing TDs, and his brother has six to place second. Senior James Milhollin ranks third on the team with 33 carries, 250 yards and three rushing touchdowns.

Junior quarterback Brooks Bryant has completed 75-of-123 pass attempts for 1,184 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has only been sacked three times.

Senior Casey Barham has been Bryant's favorite target, catching a team-high 42 passes for a team-best 592 receiving yards and has caught three TD passes. Milhollin has earned 13 receptions for 287 yards and leads the team with five touchdown catches.

"The more games he plays, the more confidence he gets," Morrell said about Bryant. "Casey is new to football this year, and he is getting better and better too."

Senior Billy McCurry paces the Fellowship defense and leads the squad with 74 tackles, 35 solo stops, 22 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. He's also forced a team-high three fumbles.

Senior Matt Morton tops the squad with 46 assisted stops and is second with 61 total stops. Senior Matt Curry ranks third on the team with 59 total tackles (42 assisted stops) and junior Cameron Gill is next with 47 stops and is third overall with 19 solo stops.

Victory No. 5

FCS Varsity Football Squad Bounces Back from Homecoming Loss to Clip King's Ridge 35-7

Merrick Haigler made another huge impact, but it certainly didn't hurt the Fellowship Christian School varsity team that its passing game hit on all cylinders as well.

It turned out to be a terrific offensive combination as the FCS football team moved past the .500 mark with a 35-7 victory over King's Ridge Christian School at Bob Lord Field on Oct. 27. Overall, the Paladins had 476 total yards of offense, including 273 on the ground.

It was the 70th varsity football victory for the Paladins, now 5-4 this season and 3-4 in Region contests.

Haigler, who missed three games with a knee injury earlier this season, has notched 390 yards in his last two games with the Paladins. Against the Tigers, the senior collected 164 yards on 22 carries and led the squad with four touchdowns on the ground.

Junior quarterback Brooks Bryant completed 11-of-15 pass attempts – all to seniors Casey Barham and James Milhollin – for 203 yards.

A win in Friday night's crossover contest will assure the team will finish with its second straight winning season, which would set a school varsity football record.

On Oct. 27, FCS led KR, 14-7, at halftime on a pair of Haigler TD runs (7 and 8 yards). Senior Jack Berends connected on two of his three extra-point kicksi n the first half.

The Paladins scored the last three touchdowns of the contest to improve to 5-3 all-time against the Tigers.

"It was an all-around good football game for us," said head coach Al Morrell, now 32-21 at Fellowship. "Merrick is a very good football player. He has been outstanding since returning to our lineup. Brooks has made steady improvements all season, and is throwing the ball well. Our senior receivers have been making big catches too."

Milhollin, who caught three passes for 97 yards, connected with Bryant on a 66-yard TD reception in the third quarter. Berends' extra-point kick was no good, but the Paladins led 20-7 at that point.

Haigler scored on a 3-yard TD run to open the fourth quarter scoring, and tacked on two-point conversion run. That gave FCS a 28-7 lead. Haigler's 5-yard run later in the quarter capped the scoring.

Junior Cameron Gill gained 36 yards on three carries to finish second behind Haigler as Fellowship had 10 ball carriers in the contest. Barham led FCS with eight catches and 136 receiving yards.

Defensively, Fellowship controlled the triple option well, limiting KR to just 69 rushing yards and 133 yards of total offense.

"One of our team's biggest strengths consistently all season has been our defense," Morrell said. "We played assignment football well."

Senior Matt Curry (four solo stops) and junior Reed Bott (three solo tackles) shared the team lead with six tackles apiece. Curry also recovered a fumble.

Gill (four solo tackles), junior Cody Tapley (three solo), senior Billy McCurry (four solo) and senior Matt Morton (four assists) all registered five tackles each. McCurry recorded a sack, while both Bott and Tapley notched two tackles for loss.

The top 24 teams qualify for the GHSA Class A Football Championships. FCS entered the game No. 23.

Earlier in the day, Haigler was named player of the week by Appen Media Group.

(Photos by Margo Miller)

State Bound

FCS Girls Cross Country Team Advances to GHSA Cross Country Championships; Wins Team Competition at Region Meet

The varsity girls cross country team from Fellowship Christian School won the team competition among Private Class A schools at the Region meet held at The Darlington School in Rome on Oct. 26.

The Lady Paladins will compete at the GHSA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 3 in Carrollton.

In Rome, FCS senior Caroline Keim placed third place overall in the varsity girls race. Freshman Sami Rickheim came in fourth overall, and her sister, junior Liv Rickheim was seventh. Rounding out the FCS top five were freshman Faith Cole in 18th place and sophomore Priscilla Lorenzo was 20th.

The varsity boys placed sixth overall as a team at Darlington, missing fifth place by just one point. The JV boys squad placed third in their race. There isn't a state race for JV.

The top four teams in the girls and boys varsity races qualified for the state meet. The top six individuals in both the varsity boys and girls races also advanced to states.

(Photo from Twitter)

Week 9 Varsity Football Preview

FCS Faces KR, Eyes Winning Season and Trip to States

The Fellowship Christian School varsity football team received some much-needed good news this week.

In the latest 2017-18 GHSA Power Ratings for Football, the Paladins are ranked 23rd. The top 24 teams qualify for the GHSA Class A Football Championships.Despite losses in three out of the last four games, Fellowship remains in the running to reach the state playoffs for the second consecutive season and finish with a winning record in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history.

"We have to take care of business [and win games]," head coach Al Morrell said. "But the rankings are good news for us. We could face either North Cobb Christian School or Bowden in the crossover game."

The Paladins enter Friday's game against King's Ridge at Bob Lord Field with a 4-4 overall record and a 2-4 Region mark. Kickoff for the Region tilt is at 7:30 p.m. The team hosts a crossover contest on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Bob Lord Field.

"It's been a good week of practice," Morrell said. "We are re-focused. We have a different challenge this week, but we are still after a winning season."

The Tigers enter the game with a 2-6 overall record and a 1-5 mark in Region games. They dropped their last game, 42-7, to The Walker School, on Oct. 20. Overall, the Paladins are 4-3 all-time in varsity football games against King's Ridge, including a 47-0 victory in Alpharetta on Oct. 28, 2016.

"They are one of the few teams left that runs the triple option," Morrell said. "We have to play assignment football on defense, and take away the quarterback, fullback and the pitch. That can be challenging. But each player has to do his part."

On offense, Fellowship will have to play mistake-free football like it did in a 45-37 loss to Mount Pisgah Christian School on Oct. 20 on Homecoming Night.

"Last Friday, neither team could stop the other one," Morrell said. "We need another strong run game like last week."

Merrick Haigler, a senior who missed three games due to injury, led the Paladins with 226 yards on 34 carries against the Patriots. His freshman brother Lawson tacked on 70 yards on 13 attempts.

"He's a senior with experience," Morrell said about Merrick Haigler. "He brings a lot of confidence and changes the attitude on the offense. He's one of the fastest kids on the team."

Lawson tops the Paladins with 126 carries and 714 rushing yards, followed by Merrick with 67 carries and 541 yards. The brothers both have notched six rushing TDs to share the team lead. Senior James Milhollin has gained 246 yards on 29 carries with three rushing TDs. He leads the team with an average of 8.48 yards per carry.

Junior Brooks Bryant has completed 64-of-108 pass attempts for 981 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior Casey Barham leads the team with 34 receptions and 486 yards. Milhollin, who has 10 receptions for 190 yards, has grabbed a team-high four touchdown passes and Barham has three. Junior Cameron Gill has hauled in five passes for 116 yards and two scores, while junior Cam Cochran has caught 11 passes for 98 yards.

Overall, the Paladin offense has earned 2,986 total yards this season, including 1,044 yards passing and 1,882 rushing.

(Photos by Margo Miller)

Homecoming Loss

Varsity Football Team Falls in High-Scoring Contest to Rival Mount Pisgah, 45-37; Haigler Gains 226 Yards

Al Morrell understands character building more than any football coach these days. It doesn't mean he likes it very much.

After three very tough losses over the last month, the Fellowship Christian School football coach watched his team come up short on Homecoming Night to rival Mount Pisgah Christian School, 45-37, at Bob Lord Field despite another solid performance.

"We're tired of talking about building character," Morrell said following the game. "We have had enough closes losses. But we fought very hard tonight. I am very proud of our football team. We never gave up."

Fellowship is now 4-4 overall, although three of those defeats are by one point, seven points and eight points, respectively.

The Paladins trailed 24-17 at halftime in the high-scoring contest, but scored on three straight possessions in the second half to pull within 38-37 late in the Region contest.

Junior quarterback Brooks Bryant's dive into the end zone from inside the 1-yard line capped an 81-yard drive and brought the Paladins to within a point with 5:12 to play. But the team could not get to 38 points as senior Jack Berends' extra-point kick was blocked.

Fellowship forced the Patriots to punt four plays later with 3:45 left. The Paladins drove 31 yards to the Mount Pisgah 9-yard-line in less than three minutes, but blocked Berends' 26-yard field goal attempt on a 4th-and-8 play with 52.5 seconds left.

In a surprise move, Mount Pisgah decided to run another play instead of taking a knee and senior quarterback Jacob Cendoya sprinted down the field for a 72-yard TD run with 33.6 seconds to play.

The TD actually gave the Paladins another offensive opportunity to tie the contest, but after a series of completions, a third-down pass fell incomplete as time ran out deep in Patriot territory.

Despite the first-half deficit, Morrell had confidence in his team.

"I told them [at halftime] we need stops defensively, because we can score on them," he said. "I knew we could come back and score points. We had our opportunities. Obviously the blocked field goal and extra point hurt us. Their quarterback made key plays. You have to give him credit. He was hard to tackle."

Junior Cameron Gill's 9-yard run at 7:38 of the third quarter opened the second-half scoring. Berends booted the third of four extra-points kicks to tie the game at 24-24.

Cendoya's 11-yard TD run on the next series put Mount Pisgah ahead 31-24.

But Merrick Haigler's 5-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, on the next possession tied the game again at 31-31.

Cendoya's TD pass gave the Patriots a 38-31 lead at 10:28 of the fourth quarter.

The game was 7-3 after the first quarter, including Berends' 26-yard field goal at 5:55 to open the scoring.

Mount Pisgah outscored FCS 24-17 in the second quarter, which included senior James Milhollin's 65-yard TD pass from Bryant that was sandwiched by two long Cendoya TD passes.

Haigler's first TD run brought the Paladins to within four points – 21-17 – late in the half. The Patriots tacked on a 32-yard field goal with 18.2 seconds left in the half to make it a seven-point cushion.

Haigler led the FCS run game, which had 363 yards, with 226 yards on 34 carries. His freshman brother Lawson tacked on 70 yards on 13 attempts.

Bryant finished with 102 passing yards on 10 completions (16 attempts) and one touchdown. He connected with four receivers, including senior Casey Barham (seven catches for 37 yards), Milhollin (one for 65), junior Cam Cochran (one for four yards) and Merrick Haigler (one for minus four).

Senior Matthew Curry led the Paladin defense with seven tackles (three solo, four assists).

(Photos by Margo Miller)

Week Eight Football Preview

Paladins will Face Homecoming Night Test against Region Rival Mount Pisgah

There isn't much doubt that the Fellowship Christian School varsity football team will probably face its toughest task of the season on Friday night.

Al Morrell's Paladin squad enters its Homecoming Night contest against big Region rival Mount Pisgah Christian School on. Oct. 20 coming off a 41-0 victory at Pinecrest Academy that snapped Fellowship's two-game skid. Kickoff at Bob Lord Field is slated for 7:30 p.m.

"They are definitely the most talented team we have faced all year," Morrell said. "They have a great quarterback in [Jacob] Cendoya, and some great receivers and running backs. They have speed and illusiveness. They have plenty of skill, and have lost only one game this season."

The Patriots enter FCS' homecoming contest on a five-game winning streak. They are 5-0 in the Region and 6-1 overall. The squad has not lost since a 62-21 road loss at Rabun County on Aug. 25.

"It will take an incredible performance for us to beat them," Morrell said. "We have to control their quarterback, make our own plays on offense, sustain drives and win the battle of the clock."

The Paladins close out the regular season with three straight games at Bob Lord Field, in the team's quest to reach the state playoffs and attain a school-record second straight winning season. FCS faces King's Ridge Christian on Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m., and will host a crossover contest on Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Fellowship owns a 6-6 all-time record against Mount Pisgah, including a 35-21 victory over the Patriots in Johns Creek on their Homecoming Night on Oct. 21, 2016.

FCS enters the rival week contest on a high after suffering two back-to-back heart-breaking losses.

"It was fun," Morrell said about the shutout victory in Cumming. "It was a good win for our team. Merrick Haigler [returning to the lineup] was a pleasant surprise. We played well on both sides of the ball."

Fellowship's offense has earned 2,446 yards, including 1,504 on the ground and 942 in the air, this season.

Junior Brooks Bryant has completed 54-for-92 pass attempts for 928 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. Senior Casey Barham tops FCS with 27 catches, 449 receiving yards and three touchdown catches. Senior James Milhollin has grabbed nine passes for 125 yards, and junior receiver/defensive back Cameron Gill, who returned to the lineup at Pinecrest after missing one game, has caught five passes for 116 yards.

Freshman Lawson Haigler has earned 644 yards, including a career-high 187 yards at Pinecrest, and six touchdowns on 113 carries. Merrick, his senior brother, has earned 300 yards on 32 attempts with four TDs. Milhollin has collected 233 yards on 26 carries with three touchdowns.

Senior Billy McCurry leads the Fellowship defense with 61 tackles, 27 solo stops, 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Senior Matt Morton is next with 52 tackles (14 solo stops and a team-best 38 assists).

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