Patriots win 6-man state title in first year

Published 11:49 pm Friday, November 4, 2011

Time to celebrate: Chilton Christian Academy players celebrate after winning the Christian Football Association championship.

Just 77 days ago, Chilton Christian Academy suited up for its first football game in school history.

Friday night, the Patriots walked off R. Jerry Morris Memorial Ball Field in Hueytown as state champions.

Chilton Christian beat Marion Academy, 58-50, in the inaugural Christian Football Association championship game—in a thrilling contest that set the bar high for future title games.

Ashton Basler runs the ball against Marion Academy's defense. Late in the third quarter, Basler had an interception and then scored a rushing touchdown on the very next play.

Asked to describe the exciting year in one word, head coach Todd Stephens responded with “rewarding.”

“Surprising” might be another word to characterize a team that started the season not sure what to expect.

“We wanted to be at .500. We wanted to have a winning season,” Stephens said.

The team far exceeded those expectations, finishing the season with an 8-2 record and avenging a 53-28 earlier loss to Marion Academy in the last game of the regular season.

“It’s humbling to be the first (CFA champion),” Stephens said. “We are honored to represent Chilton Christian Academy and their families.”

Chilton Christian Academy's Cris Lassinger (3), Ryan Powell (55) and Carl Mitchell celebrate the team's win over Marion Academy.

Carl Mitchell was named the game’s Most Valuable Player as well as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. He and Ryan Powell also made the All-League defensive team.

Powell, Cris Lassinger and Will Hamby earned All-League offensive honors.

Chilton Christian took the early lead after Powell hauled in an 11-yard touchdown pass.

Marion Academy immediately answered, though, returning the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to tie things at 6-6.

Not to be outdone, Mitchell had a long return of his own, getting the ball down to the 10-yard line to ultimately set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Lassinger.

The Panthers scored again on their next possession, off a 19-yard run by Jamaal Paige.

But yet again the Patriots punched back quickly, getting another touchdown on their next offensive play via a 33-yard pass from Lassinger to Powell.

Lassinger looks to pass the ball against Marion Academy with Zack Pittman.

In the second quarter, CCA scored again to put the score at 26-13 off a 6-yard run by Lassinger, who appeared to injure his leg on Marion’s next possession after he intercepted the ball.

Lassinger would stay out a possession before coming back in—he also missed some time in the third quarter before returning in the fourth.

The Panthers held CCA after the turnover and then found the end zone off a 41-yard pass from Chase Tyus to Paige. Marion added another touchdown before the break to tighten things to 26-25 at halftime.

Defense ruled the third quarter, before a bevy of points late in the game. Mitchell scored next for CCA to give the Patriots a 32-25 advantage with 2:48 to go in the third.

The momentum stayed with the Patriots as Ashton Basler intercepted the ball and then on the very next play scored off an 11-yard run.

Chilton Christian Academy won the inaugural championship game in the two-year old Alabama Christian Football Association.

Marion Academy would fight back, though. A 41-yard touchdown run by Paige and a costly CCA fumble led to another score by Paige and drew things to 39-37.

The Patriots went up again, scoring two more passing touchdowns, but another kickoff return for a TD by Paige kept Marion hanging around at 52-44.

CCA answered when Mitchell returned the ensuing kickoff (which was an onside attempt by Marion) 37 yards for the score. The points put CCA up 58-44, which ended up being enough for the win. Marion added a final touchdown with just over 1 minute to go in the game.