Annapolis Area Christian School couldn’t get out of its own way during the first half of Saturday’s MIAA C Conference championship game against St. John’s Catholic Prep. On the few opportunities the Eagles had, they couldn’t solve the Vikings defense while penalties killed big plays.
But in the second half, the Eagles found their stride on offense, scoring 14 straight points and holding on for a 21-16 victory to win their second C Conference title in three years.
“They played well,” Eagles head coach Mike Lynn said. “The guys have been working hard. You play a team three times in five weeks, that’s a little rough. They’re a big, physical team. Our guys didn’t shy away from the challenge today and we’re very proud of our team. (They’re) the most unselfish team I’ve ever been around in 25 years of coaching. “
The AACS defense kept the Vikings at bay for most of the first half. After a 63-yard interception was returned for a touchdown by defensive back and wide receiver Thaddeus Standfield, the offense frequently stalled for the Eagles (8-2).
“It’s the best defense ever,” Lynn said. “(Defensive coordinator) Tom Thompson and the defensive staff do a tremendous job every week to put us in position to win. We live and die by our defense.”
Standfield was a force to be reckoned with in all three phases of the game. On top of the interception, he had two kickoff returns 30 yards or more and would have had a touchdown reception in the first half if not for a holding penalty.
“If we had a fourth phase, he would play it,” Lynn said of his versatile star. “He’s a special football player. He’s a special guy and we’re blessed to have him (considering) this is just his second year of playing.”
The Eagles’ first-half mistakes would eventually cost them. The Vikings blocked a punt in the end zone for a touchdown, then opened up the second half with a two-minute drive that ended in a field goal, giving them a 10-7 lead.
After those scores, however, the Eagles offense finally woke up.
Quarterback Ryan Idleman quickly responded on the ensuing drive when he connected with receiver Cameron Williams on a 60-yard touchdown pass.
“I dropped back, had good protection, so I knew I had time,” Idleman said. “I was reading the (cornerback) and he originally (covered the play), so I looked back and he (switched). I saw the safety had come up and I saw Cam was behind him, and I just aired it out as far as I could to let him run under it for a touchdown.”
After the Eagles defense once again came up with a big stop and forced a punt, Idleman connected with Williams again on a 35-yard catch inside the Vikings’ 10-yard line, setting up a 5-yard touchdown pass to receiver Joey Dixon.
The catch gave the Eagles a 21-10 lead with five minutes to play in the third quarter, which would hold up after a last fourth-quarter St. John’s drive ended in six points. The following onside kick was negated by a penalty, and the Eagles ran out the clock to clinch the championship.
“We did great in the second half, we came back and responded well,” Idleman said. “We came out and just did what we’re supposed to do, what we know we can do.”
Idleman finished with 187 yards passing and no interceptions to go along with his two passing touchdowns. Williams led the Eagles with 104 yards receiving.
Dixon also contributed on defense with an interception and 11 tackles, including four for a loss. Sam Akinmukomi led the defense with 17 tackles and Adrian Henley had three sacks.
St. John’s-CP (5-6) 7 0 3 6 — 16
AACS (8-2) 7 0 14 0 — 21
AA — Standfield 63 interception (Rosacker kick)
JC — Blocked punt for touchdown (Rutsch kick)
JC — Rutsch 31 FG
AA — Williams 60 pass from Idleman (Rosacker kick)
AA — Dixon 5 pass from Idleman (Rosacker kick)
JC —3 run (run failed)