LIBERTY CITY – There’s no place like home – especially when you’ve won every game there, except one, since 2018.
Right? Sabine Cardinals players said, “Yes, sir,” and then proceeded to take a 48-38 homecoming win over the visiting New Boston Lions.
That allowed coach Rex Sharp’s Cardinals to halt a two-game losing streak, and get their third win of the season, their first in the District 6-3A, Division I schedule.
Next up for Sabine: a trip to Atlanta next week for district game number two.
But first thing was first Friday at James Bamberg Stadium on the SHS campus, and that was New Boston.
New Boston took the opening kickoff and went to work through the air. Kevon Thompson hauled in a Kyle Atkinson pass for 21 yards. Caden Glass took a handoff and rumbled 34 yards to put the Lions in scoring position, and then Atkinson finished off the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Glass converted the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
The Cardinals took and overcame an onside kick attempt and kept to the ground. The Lion defense forced a third-and-long when Jace Burns found Kyle Stripland for 18 yards to keep the drive alive.
Brannigan Willige then weaved through the defense for 23 yards to put the Cards in the red zone. The drive stalled at the New Boston 4-yard-line, where Eduardo Jaimes booted a 21-yard field goal to cut the NB lead to 8-3.
Both teams’ defenses showed up for the next drives as they each forced the other to punt. Then the Lions went to work.
Facing a third down, Atkinson found Tre Lewis-Colbert for 33 yards. Keeping to the ground they moved downfield and five plays later, Thompson pushed into the endzone for the score. Glass’ two-point run put the Lions up 16-3 to end the first quarter.
Sabine took the second quarter kickoff and Burns found an opening, sprinting 28 yards deep into Lion territory. Willige then went for 13 yards. The Lion defense forced another third down, but Burns went to the air and found Kaden Manning for a catch and run of 16 yards and a touchdown.
Jaimes’ extra point cut the lead to 16-10, and then Cardinal defense followed suit, stopping the Lions and forcing them to punt.
Burns went back to work and on second down he connected with Manning again, this time for a 47-yard touchdown. The Cards took their first lead with Jaimes’ extra point, 17-16.
But there was time left in the half, and neither team would waste it.
The Lions were not to be outdone as they marched down field on the legs of Glass. Atkinson went to the air for the final play of the drive, and found Lewis-Colbert for a 32-yard touchdown. Thompson took the conversion run to put New Boston back in front in this see-saw affair, 24-17.
But they left Sabine too much time, as it turned out. Burns went to the air and found Alex Galyean for 29 yards. Then Burns – in his first season as Sabine’s starting quarterback, remember – found Cayden Fortson for a short gain, but then he turned on the jets and dove in for a 32-yard score. That tied the game up with Jaimes’ extra point, and then the half ended with Fortson intercepting the Lions, who were driving.
The Cardinals continued that offensive outburst into the third quarter. Willige rattled off runs of 23 and 8 yards, followed by 14 from Burns. Willige took the final two for the go-ahead touchdown and a 31-24 lead.
Sharp’s defense stopped the Lions on a three-and out. Sticking with the running game, Willige and Burns traded carries and they chewed up turf, with Burns taking the final 9 yards for the touchdown.
With a 38-24 lead, the Cardinals were looking just run the clock. The Lions were clinging to hope and took a 14-play drive, utilizing Glass again. Atkinson kept the ball for the final 6 yards for the touchdown, but the momentum turned a 180, as the Cardinals forced a fumble on the conversion and Ty Francisco – Mr. Where-the-Ball-is-He-Is – scooped it up and ran 96 yards. A block in the back penalty nullified the two points, but Sabine had sent a clear message: not tonight, Lions.
The fourth quarter saw more clock management as the Cardinals used nine plays and the legs of Willige who scored from 8 yards out to increase their lead to 45-30. Sabine’s defense, which has played outstanding for the better part of the last two seasons, forced another fumble, which Carter Patterson fell on to put the ball back into the hands of his offense.
This drive stalled, but Jaimes was able to boot a 39-yard field goal for the Cardinals final points, and a 48-30 lead. New Boston did take its final drive 70 yards for a score, with Malachi Dorsey scoring on a 4-yard pass from Atkinson. The conversion left the final score, 48-38.
For the Cardinals, Burns was 8-of-14 for 195 yards and four touchdowns. He had 116 on the ground. Willige had 140 on the ground and the two touchdowns. Receiving, Sabine was led by Manning with 101 yards and two touchdowns and Fortson with 32 and a TD.
For the Lions, Atkinson had 139 yards through the air. Glass had 131 on the ground, and Colbert led the team with 67 yards receiving.