Bucking the trends: Vikings hand Lions second consecutive loss
There were multiple things in the Fort Worth Nolan football team's repertoire that traditionally leads to a losing effort Friday night.
The Vikings managed just 10 first downs and had nearly 70 percent of their offensive snaps produce plays of 5 yards or less.
Nevertheless, it was enough to deal Prestonwood Christian Academy (7-2, 3-2) its second consecutive loss in a 33-21 decision.
"We've got to go back to work," said Chris Cunningham, Prestonwood head coach. "We can't get down. I told them it's OK to get upset and get angry, but we can't stop believing in each other and what we're doing. We have to come back stronger and get ready for this next week."
Despite at one point leading in the third quarter, 23-7, the Vikings (6-2, 4-0) were tasked with fending off a potential go-ahead drive by Prestonwood with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Clinging to a 26-21 lead, Nolan didn't wait long to derail Prestonwood's comeback bid with Frank Colin intercepting sophomore Mickey Mitchell on third down to position the Vikings at the Lions' 22-yard line.
Six plays later, quarterback Joseph Prud'homme snuck in a 1-yard score on fourth down with 1:53 left to ice the game.
"[Nolan] is the type of team where you have to commit to slowing them down," Cunningham said. "If they get a crease, they'll take it. They also did some things that were different from what we had seen but overall, I felt we did OK."
Colin's interception was just one of several momentum-swinging plays that favored the Vikings throughout the night.
Similar plays were produced by the Nolan offense in the first half, despite the unit converting just nine plays for 7 yards or more on the night.
The Vikings got started on their third play from scrimmage when a short pass from Prud'homme to David Authier was taken 68 yards to the house for a 6-0 Nolan lead with 9:17 left in the opening quarter.
Two plays into the second quarter, the Vikings defense struck when Jeremy Freyre picked off Mitchell and took the interception down to the Prestonwood 16-yard line. One play later, an option toss from Prud'homme to Luke Alves equated a 16-yard score and a 13-0 advantage.
Alves wasn't done there, extending the Nolan lead to 20-7 one series later with a 61-yard touchdown run with 6:29 left in the half. The rusher posted 116 yards on 17 carries.
"[Nolan] is an offense that grinds it out but every play, they have the potential of just popping one on you," Cunningham said.
The Lions crossed midfield five times in seven first-half drives but had just one touchdown to show for their effort: a 2-yard run by senior Grayson Warren to cap a nine-play drive and pull the Lions within six at 13-7 with 8:34 left in the second quarter.
Riding Warren to 20 carries in the first half, the rusher finished with 101 yards on 24 carries.
Prestonwood would creep within scoring range in its final drive of the half, amassing 54 yards in 10 plays before a 28-yard field goal by junior Gabe Lozano sailed wide right and no good.
An offsides call on Nolan gave the Lions second life, but Prestonwood failed to capitalize after a Viking pass rush forced a fade by Mitchell high and over the outstretched arms of freshman Michael Irvin to preserve Nolan's 20-7 lead into halftime.
"[Nolan] was able to man up on our receivers and shut them down," Cunningham said. "That allowed them to keep the box packed with bodies that made it tough for us to run and Mickey was limited in what he could do."
A 24-yard field goal by McCaleb Taylor gave the Vikings their biggest lead of the night at 23-7 with 3:51 left in the third quarter before Prestonwood responded with 14 unanswered points.
Mitchell completed a 38-yard heave to senior Christian Morgan before the quarterback snuck in the touchdown on a 1-yard rush. Two Prestonwood series later, Mitchell found freshman Jonathan Heasley, who led Prestonwood with 92 yards, over the middle for a 25-yard touchdown to trim Nolan's lead to 23-21 with 6:24 left in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings responded immediately with a 75-yard kickoff return by Jonathan Faltynski, but were only able to muster a 22-yard field goal by Taylor to make it 26-21.
Prestonwood's final two drives ended in Mitchell interception, bringing the signal caller's total to three in addition to 268 passing yards on 22-of-48 attempts and two total touchdowns.
Friday's loss marked the first time since Sept. 18, 2009 that Prestonwood has suffered back-to-back losses. The Lions look to rebound Friday at 7:30 p.m. when they travel to Bishop Lynch.