Tough Loss: Paladins Fall to Fitzgerald High School in GHSA Class AA Semifinals
Unfortunately, a second-half surge was not enough.
The varsity football team from Fellowship Christian School rallied from a 19-0 halftime deficit to pull within 10 points in the second half but couldn’t get any closer as the team dropped a 19-9 decision to undefeated Fitzgerald High School in the semifinals of the GHSA Class AA Football Championships on Dec. 2.
“It was an impressive second half, but I refuse to forget the first half,” head coach Tim McFarlin said. “There are greater lessons learned in the first half. Life can be hard, and they learned a lesson that you don’t make it harder than it has to be.”
In the first half, FCS was limited to just six plays from scrimmage and allowed a safety, two fumbles (one on a kickoff) and one interception. The Canes held the ball for nearly all of the game’s first 15:23 as they opened up a 16-0 lead.
The loss snapped an eight-game win streak for the Paladins, who finished the season 10-4 overall. Fitzgerald won its 20th straight game and improved to 14-0 this season. The Canes – the No. 1 seed from Region 1 – are the defending state champions. FCS is the No.1 seed from Region 8.
Despite a tough first half, FCS struck first in the second half.
Junior Nathan Chapman’s punt was downed at 2-yard-line to end the second half’s first series. And the Fellowship defense capitalized to force a Fitzgerald punt on fourth-and-17 from the Canes 30-yard line a couple of minutes later.
Chapman’s 39-yard field goal with 1:24 left in the third quarter made it 19-3.
Fizgerald’s next drive ended on a punt on a fourth-and-eight play from the Canes 43-yard-line.
Senior Kyle Elphick capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive on a misdirection handoff with 3:25 to play on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard-line. The two-point conversion pass attempt from senior Caleb McMickle to senior Sam Albee fell incomplete in the end zone but the Paladins had pulled to within 10 points.
Fellowship collected five first downs on that drive, including senior Clay Shepler’s catch for 12 yards, freshman CJ Givers’ 15-yard run, another Shepler catch for 13 yards, junior Josh Milhollin’s 18-yard catch, and another Givers run for first down on second-and-six from the 16-yard-line.
However, FCS could not get any closer as Fitzgerald recovered the onsides kick and was able to run out the clock.
On the game’s first series, Fellowship forced a Fitzgerald punt that was downed inside the 5-yard-line. Unfortunately, McMickle slipped and fell in the end zone on FCS’ first play from scrimmage for the safety at 7:54.
Following the safety, the Canes went on a 65-yard drive that lasted 6:19 and ended on a 1-yard TD run with 1:35 left in the first quarter. Following the extra-point kick, it was 9-0.
Milhollin fumbled the kickoff and Fitzgerald went on to score again nine plays later on a 6-yard run 1:59 into the second quarter. That left the score 16-0.
Following another fumble – this one by Shepler following a catch – the Canes tacked on a 32-yard field goal with 1:51 left in the half.
Milhollin’s long kickoff return inside Canes territory gave the Paladins great field possession late in the half. Givers gained a total of 15 yards on two run plays, and Elphick appeared to score a touchdown on second-and-seven pass play from the 31-yard line, but a Fitzgerald defender wrestled the ball away for the end-zone interception with 54 seconds left.
The Canes out gained the Paladins, 267-114.
FCS owns a 3-1 playoff record this season and is 17-8 all-time in varsity football playoff games. The Paladins have won 10 or more games in a season seven times in school history. FCS reached the finals of the 2016 GHSA Class A Private Football Championships (a 34-27 double OT loss to Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy) and had a school-record 13-1 mark that season.
Final 4 Preview: Paladins Travel to Fitzgerald High School in GHSA Class AA Semifinal Matchup
The varsity football team from Fellowship Christian School seeks its second-ever trip to the state finals. But a team that’s 13-0 and on a 19-game win stands in the Paladins way.
The Paladins, winners of eight straight contests and 10-3 overall, travel to Fitzgerald to face undefeated and defending state Class AA champion Fitzgerald High School in the GHSA Class AA Football Championships Final 4 matchup on Friday, Dec. 2, at 7:30 p.m.
The Purple Hurricane squad owns a 13-0 record and is the No. 1 seed from Region 1. Fitzgerald, which beat Rockmart High school 21-14 in overtime on Nov. 25, hosts the Paladins as the result of the recent coin flip to determine the host school for games of the same seedings. The Paladins are the top seed form Region 8.
With a 40-22 victory over Pierce County at Bob Lord Field on Nov. 26, the Fellowship squad qualified for the state semifinals for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in school history.
“The kids prepared for [the Pierce County] game so well and played very well,” said head coach Tim McFarlin, who is 22-5 at FCS. “There’s not much more that can be said about the effort. The boys did well. From the very start of the game until the finish we played with such great intensity.”
FCS will need a similar effort against Fitzgerald, which won the Class AA state title last year and finished with a 13-2 record.
The Purple Hurricanes have scored 416 points and have allowed just 158 points this season. The Paladins have scored 398 points and have given up 222 points this season.
FCS owns a 3-0 playoff record this season and is 17-7 all-time in varsity football playoff games. The Paladins have won 10 or more games in a season seven times in school history. The Paladins reached the finals of the 2016 GHSA Class A Private Football Championships (a 34-27 double OT loss to Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy) and had a school-record 13-1 mark that season.
This season, Fellowship has out gained its opponents, 4,628 to 3,240. The team has gained 2,470 yards on the ground and 2,158 through the air this season.
Freshman CJ Givers leads the Paladin running backs with 1,150 yards, 201 carries and 16 TDs this season. Senor Nick Persiano has gained 721 yards on 127 carries with seven TDs.
Senior Caleb McMickle has completed 126-of-207 pass attempts for 2,092 yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Junior Josh Milhollin has grabbed 56 passes for 928 yards and six touchdowns, all first on the team. Senior Clay Shepler (22 catches for 306 yards), sophomore Evan Haynes (13 for 278) and senior Kyle Elphick (13 for 207) have all grabbed three touchdown passes this season.
Fellowship’s defense is coming off a great effort against Pierce County, holding the Bears – who entered the contest with an average of 45.4 point per contest – to just 22 points.
Elphick leads the FCS defense with 110 total tackles and 82 assisted stops and ranks third with 28 solo tackles. Senior Sam Albee leads the squad with 38 solo tackles, 17 sacks and 24 tackles for a loss, and is second overall with 66 tackles.
Shepler is next on the defense with 61 tackles (25 solo, 36 assists), followed by freshman Jonathan Granby with 55 tackles (32 solo, 23 assists) and senior Sawyer Stock with 51 (26 solo, 25 assists).
Freshman Tristan Lester leads the Paladins with three interceptions, while Albee tops the squad with two fumble recoveries.
(Photos Chip Cookston and Milo Falcon)
Lady Paladins Notch Win No. 4
The seventh- and eighth-grade girls basketball squad from Fellowship Christian School played was victorious on the road on Dec. 1.
The Lady Paladins defeated Whitefield Academy in Mableton, 37-16. It was a Metro 10 League game.
“All the girls played hard and I was so proud of them,” head coach Kimberly Nelson said. “Our press created a lot of turnovers.”
Grace Musselman led FCS with 11 points. Mary Rey Schroyer netted seven points for Fellowship, now 4-3 overall.
Bouncing Back: FCS Rebounds from Loss with Road Win
The Fellowship Christian School seventh-grade boys basketball team, which lost in its previous game, won a road game at Whitefield Academy on Dec. 1.
The Paladins beat Whitefield in Mableton, 33-25. It was a Metro 10 League game.
“It was a total team win,” head coach Jeff Padlo said. “It was a great effort by everyone on the floor, including the starters and bench.”
Ben Halevi led Fellowship with 10 points, while Brody Bernd netted nine and Hudson Padlo eight.
Lady Paladins Fall at Whitefield Academy
The sixth- and seventh-grade girls basketball squad from Fellowship Christian School lost on the road on Dec. 1.
Fellowship lost 15-10 in a Metro 10 League game played against Whitefield Academy in Mableton.
Fellowship Posts Road Victory
The Fellowship Christian School eighth-grade boys basketball team traveled to Whitefield Academy on Dec. 1 and notched a victory.
The Paladins won the Metro 10 League game played in Mableton, 52-32.
With the victory, FCS improved to 7-6 overall.
“The boys brought good energy, and it was a good team win,” head coach Greg Puckett said.
Paladins Post Road Victory at Perimeter
The Fellowship Christian School sixth-grade boys basketball team bounced back from a loss with a road victory on Nov. 30.
In a non-league game played in Johns Creek, the Paladins defeated Perimeter Christian School, 39-15.
“We played really well,” head coach Matt Keeter said.
Hunter Bernd led the way with 13 points for Fellowship, 5-4 overall. FCS has now won two out of its last three contests.