Shot down in shootout: Cardinals surrender three-score lead in Lutheran South comeback
BY Matthew Costa, Staff Writer
After a heartbreaking 55-48 loss for John Paul II (1-2) against Houston Lutheran South, Cardinals head coach David Gaffney identified the problems his team had Friday night.
"It's a classic example. You make mistakes and you'll let a good team back in the game," he said. "We had two turnovers, four penalties and we just couldn't stop them on defense (in the second half)."
Facing a 22-point deficit, the Pioneers needed one score to complete the comeback after forcing John Paul to punt for only the second time on the night. Lutheran South needed only four plays on the drive to secure the lead, after junior quarterback Trent Fronson ran 4 yards to put his team up, 55-48.
The Cardinals' defense had a tough night against Fronson who ran for 187 yards and five touchdowns, along with 158 passing yards and another score.
The final drive for the Cardinals was short on drama as senior quarterback Chase McCoy threw his second interception of the night, ending any hope of overtime for John Paul. After the play, several Cardinals players, including McCoy, let their emotions show as referees had to step in to separate the two sides.
"I think our emotions got the better of us," Gaffney said. "That's not who we really are."
John Paul started off quickly, as senior receiver Ryan Cook scored on a pitch from McCoy, running 50 yards to put the Cardinals on the board, 7-0.
The Pioneers would respond with two consecutive touchdown drives. Senior running back Cameron Jackson scored the first points of the night for Lutheran South on a 13-yard run. Franson would give the Pioneers their first lead after a 10-play, 39-yard drive that resulted from a muffed punt by the Cardinals.
The Cardinals did not despair after losing their early lead, but instead used their playmakers to quickly strike back against the Pioneers. Cook returned the following kickoff down to Lutheran South's 26-yard line. McCoy took advantage of the return, scoring three plays later and regaining the lead for his team, 14-13.
Outside of his two interceptions, McCoy passed for 223 yards and five touchdowns as well as 115 yards and another score on the ground.
A quick stop by John Paul's defense allowed McCoy and Cook to extend the lead, as the two connected on a 66-yard screen pass that went the distance and resulted in a 21-13 Cardinals lead.
Lutheran South kept itself in the game with a three-play drive that was highlighted by a deep pass from Franson to senior receiver Caleb Oliver for a 65-yard touchdown pass that trimmed John Paul's lead down to 21-20.
McCoy added two of his five passing touchdowns just before halftime. The first came on a 43-yard throw to senior wide out Cameron Meziere, followed by another long screen pass to senior running back Nick Finer as the first half came to a close, giving the Cardinals a 35-20 lead.
John Paul looked to close the door on the Pioneers, as McCoy again found Meziere for a touchdown reception after a seven-play, 52-yard drive to begin the second half.
The Cardinals' offense did everything it could to secure a win, gaining 438 yards of total offense. The problem for John Paul was on defense, as the Pioneers ran for 366 yards on 58 attempts, keeping McCoy and company at bay.
"We made a lot of big plays, but we couldn't string together any consistent drives," Gaffney said. "Conversely, they really worked the ball down and we couldn't get them off the field."
The Pioneers scored three times in a span of just over five minutes, trimming John Paul's lead down to one at 42-41. Lutheran South senior running back Gunnar Bishop broke through the Cardinals' defense twice during his team's run, scoring from 9 and 2 yards, respectively.
John Paul was able to respond to the scores by driving 57 yards and finishing with a 6-yard pass from McCoy to senior receiver John Scott for the Cardinals' final score of the night at 48-41.
However, Lutheran South would create another long drive against the exhausted Cardinals' defense and tie the score again at 48 all before going on to defeat John Paul II.
"We just didn't finish the second half well. Plain and simple," Gaffney said.
The Cardinals look to bounce back Friday in their TAPPS 1-I opener on the road at 7:30 p.m. against Fort Worth Nolan.