Democracy Prep football coach Keith Jones walked off the field with a smile on his face Friday, but things might have been different had the game lasted much longer.
Jones’ small roster was so depleted by injuries that even his quarterback had to be carried into the post-game huddle. But in the end, the visiting Class 3A Blue Knights walked away with 12-10 upset victory over Class 4A Coronado.
“Heart,” Jones said. “That was nothing but heart. That’s what just happened.”
The Blue Knights (1-0) played their strongest football of the night while battling cramps and moderate injuries, and their sideline at times looked much like a battlefield, with multiple players receiving medical treatment.
The Cougars took control immediately, with Semaj Bolin returning the opening kick 86 yards.
“If we would have won the coin toss, I wanted the ball first,” Jones said. “I did not want them to take that kickoff back, and that’s exactly what happened. At least we still had plenty of time to get it together.”
But Coronado maintained momentum as Gavin Wale nailed a 22-yard field goal with 4:42 left in the first quarter to make it 10-0.
Then Democracy Prep’s defense went to work, stifling the Cougars’ offense the rest of the night. In the end, Coronado completed just one pass while failing to score an offensive touchdown in the game.
A Cougars fumble led to 59-yard touchdown drive for the Blue Knights, who closed the gap to 10-6 on a 3-yard scoring run by Steven Burgess. They nearly seized the lead late in the half, but the clock expired with the ball at Coronado’s 15-yard line.
Vanell Meeks took over early in the second half, as the Blue Knights relied almost entirely on their running game. Their opening 80-yard drive ate up more than seven minutes of clock, ending with a 5-yard go-ahead TD by Meeks.
“Meeks is one of our team captains for a reason,” Jones said. “He’s always willing to put in the extra work, and he’s the kind of kid we knew was going to show up for us.”
But the injuries piled up from there, and several Democracy Prep defensive players were visibly hobbling as they allowed a final long drive by the Cougars that ended on a failed 49-yard field goal.
Micah Gayman completed 7 of 15 passes to help the Blue Knights.
Bolin led Coronado (0-1), rushing six times for 70 yards.