Visiting Pearl-Cohn came within a failed fourth-and-goal attempt from tying things up with less than two minutes to play.
In the end, CPA won its 36th straight game, putting the Firebirds out 34-26.
For the Lions, Zach Weatherly threw three touchdowns and Chip Omer ran in two more, but persistent Pearl-Cohn never went away.
Lions Not Feeling the Pressure
“This is what high school football is all about,” Ingle Martin, CPA head coach, said. “There is no pressure. I am just happy with how our kids played and Pearl-Cohn is a great program on the rise.”
If the Lions weren’t feeling the pressure, it wasn’t for lack of pressing by the Firebirds.
CPA fell behind in the first, muddy quarter, 7-0 then 14-6, as the Firebirds zone-read offense cut trough holes and racked up the yards.
With two minutes left in the second and trailing 14-6, it looked like the Lions would hit the half without the lead for the first time this year.
But Omer, Weatherly and his favorite target Price Perdue thought otherwise. With 1:03 left in the Omer struck, ending a 10-play, 76-yard drive with a bowling-ball of a touchdown run. A two-point conversion tied the game at 14.
Then the Lions got the ball back on a bad kick return. Weatherly (18-25, 348 yards, 3 TDs), having a wet, splashy field day, found Perdue for 40 yards, which set up a John Orr touchdown catch.
And just like that, CPA was winning 20-14 at halftime.
Especially in the first half, the Firebird zone-read offense, starring Jimmy Ferrell (204 yards passing, 55 yards, 2 TDs running) and Ke’Juan Vaughn (20 carries, 136 yards, 2 TDs), looked dominant as it cut through gaps and racked up yards against CPA.
Only penalties, 12 for 102 yards, could consistently stop Pearl-Cohn. It was when they were called as much as how many: a holding call on a big play deep in Lion territory; multiple back-to-back calls stalling long drives; and, maybe the most critical, a kickoff return touchdown called back.
After getting the ball to start the third, the Firebirds took almost half the quarter, 10 plays, 67 yards, to score when Ferrell ran in his second touchdown. A blocked extra-point meant a 20-20 tie.
Weatherly responded, finding Jacob Webster for a 16-yard score, putting CPA up 27-20 at the end of the third.
Pearl Cohn, as it had all night, came right back with Vaughn scoring from 8-yards out. The Firebirds missed the extra point, making it a 27-26 game.
With less than half the fourth quarter left, no team had been this close, this late to CPA this year.
This is when it looked, to mere spectators, like the lions were under pressure. But the thing about pressure is how you respond to it.
And CPA responded like this was a chilly, wet and grass stained walk on the beach. The way a state championship team should when the waves are crashing over it. The Lions scored. Chip Omer, from 1-yard out after a textbook, clock control drive.
Now up 34-26 with time ticking away, Pearl-Cohn, looking tired, Ferrell gained five yards on fourth and goal from the six.
The Lions needed only three knees after that to get the win.
Next week CPA goes to Ensworth.