All season long, Augusta Christian has been an offensive machine, scoring almost effortlessly at times.
The Lions have racked up 441 points this season (36.8 points per game). Also, Augusta Christian has been held under 29 points only one time.
However, on Friday night in the SCISA AAA state semifinals, Augusta Christian found itself in a defensive battle.
With their magical season on the line, the Lions came up with defensive stand after defensive stand (along with a huge special teams play) and the Lions showed they also could win ugly.
Augusta Christian held Wilson Hall to just seven points en route to a 14-7 victory.
The win thrust Augusta Christian into the SCISA state championship game on Friday night at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C.
The Lions will square off with fourth-ranked Porter Gaud. The two teams met on Sept. 30, with the Lions winning 21-14.
Porter Gaud appears to be peaking at the right time; however, it is facing the premier offense in SCISA AAA football. Augusta Christian will prove to be too much and, like the baseball team this spring, the Lions football team will be crowned state champs.
ACS 27 Porter Gaud 17
By Billy Byler
Junior cornerback Will Wright couldn't have picked a better time to play the best game of his high school career.
In Augusta Christian's 14-7 win at Wilson Hall in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association Class AAA semifinal game Friday, Wright made three key defensive plays that gave the Lions the playoff victory and a trip to the state championship game.
"Will Wright was huge," Augusta Christian quarterback Lee Banks said. "He really stepped up."
SCISA Class AAA No. 2 Augusta Christian and No. 3 Wilson Hall were in a 7-7 tie late in the first half when the Barons drove dangerously close to taking the lead.
With 1:16 left in the second quarter, Baron quarterback Henry Bynum launched a pass toward the end zone. The Wilson Hall receiver caught the ball in the air, with Wright providing close coverage, but when the two hit the ground, it was Wright who had the ball and a touchdown-saving interception.
"I really don't know how I came down with that," Wright said. "I tried to break it up and just came up with the ball."
The play sent the Lions and Barons into halftime still knotted at 7-7, but early in the fourth quarter, Wilson Hall threatened again.
Baron running back Zach Graham broke away on a 51-yard run and seemed destined for a score until Wright chased him down and saved a sure touchdown.
A few plays later, Wright and the rest of the Lions defense shut the door on the Barons as Wilson Hall failed to convert on a fourth down and one from the Augusta Christian 16-yard line.
"The defense was it tonight," Lion running back Brad Meister said. "We wouldn't have done it without them."
With the Augusta Christian offense still struggling to put together a scoring drive against Wilson Hall, Wright teamed up with junior Taylor Hensley for the pair's biggest play of the season.
Still tied with 59 seconds left in the game, Hensley blocked a Wilson Hall punt on the Barons' 20-yard line, and Wright snatched the ball out of the air and returned it 13 yards for the game-winning score.
"We were playing conservative all night," Augusta Christian coach Bruce Lane said. "On the road though, we felt like we needed to play for the win, so we went after the punt."
The aggressive call worked and sent the Lions to the SCISA Class AAA state championship game for the first time in school history.
"This is the dream of every guy on the team," Wright said.
The postgame celebration was further fueled when word quickly spread that No. 1 ranked Heathwood Hall had been upset by No. 4 Porter Gaud 29-27 in the other SCISA AAA semifinal game.
Augusta Christian defeated Porter Gaud 21-14 earlier this season.
However, the regular season win might not mean an easy final step to the state title for the Lions. Porter Gaud did something Augusta Christian has failed to do for the past two seasons: beat Heathwood Hall.
"We've got to realize we have the opportunity to do something no one at Augusta Christian has ever done," Banks said. "I still want to leave that legacy."
Augusta Christian (11-1) will face Porter Gaud (9-3) for the SCISA Class AAA state championship at 8 p.m. Friday on the campus of South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C.
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