It took an Aquinas touchdown late in the fourth quarter to end the first state playoff run in school history for Mount Pisgah, which ended its season at 12-1.
Trailing 10-9 midway through the fourth quarter, Pisgah had an opportunity to tie the game and possibly send it into overtime when Aaron Winchester scored on a 15-yard run to give the Patriots a 16-10 lead.
However, Mount Pisgah’s lead remained at six when an extra-point kick by Chase Clark went wide right.
Aquinas would take advantage as it went on a 17-play drive that began at its own 35-yard line with 5:36 remaining in the game.
The drive finished with a five-yard touchdown pass from Liam Welch to John Morris with 19 seconds left and a successful extra-point attempt to give the Fightin’ Irish the win and a spot in the Class A private school championship game against Calvary Day at the Georgia Dome Friday.
“It’s a great achievement whenever you make it to the final four,” Mount Pisgah coach Mike Forester said. “I’m real proud of the guys. They played as a team throughout the playoffs. We’re certainly disappointed, but we look back and we’re very grateful for a very good season.”
Aquinas got the first points of the game as Ruben Garnett scored on a 1-yard run to cap off a 12-play, 58-yard drive in the first quarter to give the Fightin’ Irish a 7-0 lead.
Pisgah responded quickly as Browning Dunn stormed down the field for a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the ensuing series to even the score at 7-all.
Aquinas would end up leading 10-7 at halftime as Justin Thompson kicked a 44-yard field goal just before the end of the first half, but Clark’s 19-yard field goal in the third quarter helped Pisgah tie the game at 10-all.
“It’s tough, because we outgained them three to one,” Forester said. “We made these small mistakes that added up in the end and beat us.”
Dunn rushed for 144 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown, while Winchester ran for 119 yards on 23 rushes and a score as well as completing 5 of 11 passes for 65 yards to lead the Mount Pisgah offense.
Shingi Chigwere had 13 tackles and two sacks, while Blake Smith had 10 tackles and Tommy Pease and Nicky Piccapietra had six tackles each to lead the way on defense for the Patriots.
The loss ended what has been the most successful football season in school history for Mount Pisgah, which earned a final four berth in its first state playoff appearance and recorded a school-record 12 wins under first-year coach Forester.
“It was a surprise,” Forester said. “I expected a good season, but I didn’t expect a great season.
“I think the biggest thing was, the coaches coaching well and the players really buying into the necessities of discipline, good practice habits and establishing priorities – not just in football, but in life and studies and things like that.
“It was good to see a team grow together emotionally, to really bond and it’s one of those experiences that the players will remember for the rest of their lives. It’s just the beginning for us. The juniors and sophomores and freshmen coming back, they feel the way I do that they have some unfinished business to attend to.”