PCA puts up fight, but FDA prevails, 39-15

Published 12:35 am Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Fort Dale Eagles ran into a much-improved Prattville Christian team last night, but FDA ultimately had too much firepower and claimed a 39-15 win in the opening round of the AISA playoffs.

The Panthers came out ready to play, and on third and short early in the first quarter, PCA’s Rashad Matthews broke a 62-yard run to give them an early lead.

After several chippy penalties on both sides, FDA responded with a 52-yard pass from Hunter Armstrong to Todd Burkett to tie the game.

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The Eagles launched a long second drive, but running back Daniel Nolan fumbled at the PCA six-yard line.

Fort Dale caught a break when the ensuing snap was fumbled and covered up in the endzone for a safety.

After the free kick, Nolan redeemed himself with a 24-yard touchdown run.

PCA picked off a pass on the Eagles’ next possession, but Todd Burkett responded with an interception deep in Panther territory and a 45-yard return.

Armstrong capped the drive with a three-yard run with 2:21 to play in the half, and with 44 seconds remaining, Nolan broke a 21-yard run to give the Eagles a 30-7 lead at halftime.

“We scored 30 points in the first half, but it took us a while to get the offense rolling,” said head coach Speed Sampley. “In the second half, we were trying to make them behave, and I think we toned them down a little too much at halftime. We didn’t play with any intensity until halfway through the fourth quarter.”

On PCA’s first drive of the second half, they embarked on a 14-play, 90-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes off the clock.

Following a two-point conversion, the lead was cut to 30-15.

That drive was composed mainly of running plays, and PCA capitalized on the Eagles’ focusing on the running game to hit a 40-yard pass on the opening play of the fourth quarter.

From there, both teams struggled with turnovers.

Manny Norrell recovered a fumble for the Eagles, but FDA gave it right back with an interception on third down.

On the next drive, Cooper Lewis recovered another PCA fumble.

A solid punt by Eli Blackmon and a penalty put the Panthers in a predicament deep in their own territory, where the second muffed snap of the night led to yet another safety.

Nolan added a one-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes to play to put FDA ahead 39-15, and he also pulled in an interception off a tip by Dustin Till to seal the game.

Defensively, Lewis came through with 18 tackles to lead the team.

“We played hard as a team, and that’s all you can do,” he said after the game. “We’ve got to keep working hard for next week.”

Next week the Eagles will play host to Bessemer – the same team FDA had to go through to make it to the state championship game last year.

“We haven’t played Bessemer this year, but we’ve seen them on tape, and they’ve got a lot of speed,” Sampley said. “We had some guys get beat up tonight, and we’ll find out their statuses on Monday. At this point in the year, all you want to do is practice on Monday.”