Potent Grace offense almost blanked by CAK; late TD seals huge, soggy region win

KNOXVILLE — A potent Grace Christian Academy offense, which has fueled the Rams’ climb atop the Division-II-AA East Region standings through nine weeks, struggled to score against a stout Christian Academy defense.

“A shout-out to coach (Bart) Kareken and that defense,” said Travis Mozingo, CAK head coach, about his defensive coordinator and players following a 9-7 win at soggy GCA Friday, Oct. 25. “The guys worked so hard. They know that preparing for Grace and that offense is going to be something that’s going to test them.

“Hats off to those guys on that side ... the defensive staff.”

Holding GCA to less than 200 yards total offense, the Warriors record improved to 7-2, 3-2 in region. The Rams fell to 7-2, 4-1.

With a steady rain helping to slow the offensive pace, Christian Academy used a first-half safety to lead 2-0 after three quarters.

“I thought the defense played very hard, and I thought we played pretty disciplined,” said senior Max Smith, CAK star defensive back who had eight tackles Friday.

With sophomore Grant Sterchi’s interception at the Warriors 40 late in the third quarter, Christian Academy would march 60 yards for the decisive touchdown.

A pair of GCA penalties, a 15-yard personal foul and half-the-distance unsportsmanlike conduct, landed CAK at the Grace 6.

Warriors quarterback Ryan Degges, a junior, scored from 3 yards out with 9:03 to play, giving the Warriors a 9-0 lead with senior Zander Tonkin’s extra point.

Christian Academy then turned back a Rams drive that reached the CAK 35, when a deep pass on fourth-and-5 was broken up.

Grace did manage to score in the closing seconds, beginning at its own 20 with 2:48 to play.

In what might be a TSSAA record, the Warriors were called for defensive pass interference five times on this drive alone.

A 6-yard TD run came with 35 seconds left, but senior Gabel Fulford recovered the onside kick.

With a team-leading 12 total tackles, CAK senior linebacker Luke Myers also recovered a fumble. Denzel Jackson, a sophomore, intercepted a pass. J.D. Presley, junior defensive back, broke up four passes.