SPORTS

AHSAA playoffs: Close loss against tough foe started Coosa on run to 1A semifinals

Greg Bailey
The Gadsden Times

It stands in the record book as a loss, one of four Coosa Christian football suffered in its first six games this season 

However, it may have been the catalyst that has launched the Conquerors on an improbable run into the Class 1A state semifinals. 

“I’ve told many people that the Gatlinburg trip was what brought it all together,” coach Mark O’Bryant said Friday after the Conquerors’ 46-29 victory over Lynn in an AHSAA Class 1A quarterfinal game at Coosa. 

The win pushed Coosa (9-4) into a semifinal game at Pickens County (10-3) next week. 

Specifically, O’Bryant was referring to a game Sept. 23 against the Gatlinburg-Pittman Highlanders, a Class 3A team that won 11 of its first 12 games before falling Friday in the Tennessee quarterfinals. 

Coach Mark O'Bryant of Coosa Christian talks about the upcoming season.

O’Bryant called the Highlanders “by far the best team we’ve seen on our schedule; they have six DI prospects.” 

Still, Coosa gave them a battle before falling 28-24, and following an open week the Conquerors have reeled off seven consecutive victories, capped by their win over Lynn, which brought an 11-1 record into Friday’s game. 

They’ve scored 40 or more points in six of those wins. 

“We just jelled,” O’Bryant said. “We were good earlier in the year, but our competition was brutal. The chemistry just came together. 

“You don’t know what jells a team, but whatever it was, we played out of our minds in that game,” the coach said. 

Quarterback John David Justus, who completed 8 of 14 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score against Lynn, added, “We played our hearts out (in Gatlinburg). We competed with them and saw how good we were because they were good, they were a dang good team. We competed with them and stayed physical with them.” 

This is the first time Coosa has advanced past the first round in six tries in AHSAA competition. (One of the previous five first-round losses was to Pickens County in 2016, 55-7.) 

The young Conquerors — O’Bryant said they’re a “sophomore team,” with only six seniors — scored on every possession in the first half en route to a 37-21 lead, setting a relentless offensive pace. 

“That’s who we are,” O’Bryant said, “fast-paced on offense and defense.” 

They then played ball control in the second half after losing top running back Jacara Mostella (who rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns and caught another scoring pass) to an ejection early in the third quarter. Fullback Clete O’Bryant took up the slack with 74 rushing yards the rest of the way and scored a TD.

Lynn quarterback Cale Tittle hit 19 of 28 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns in defeat. 

Making the playoff run more special for Coosa is the fact that it’s the school’s 50th anniversary. “Nobody’s made it out of the first round of the playoffs (before),” said lineman Jacob Reed. “This is amazing.”