Undermanned Mountain Island Charter makes statement

Without two of its top players, Mountain Island Charter put itself in position to claim a conference championship.

AVONDALE – Thomas Jefferson Classical entered Friday’s matchup with Mountain Island Charter on a 20-game regular season winning streak. The Raptors were without their starting quarterback and running back.

It didn’t matter.

Mountain Island Charter broke open a tied game at halftime with a 27-point third quarter to stun the Gryphons 34-13 on a chilly night in Avondale.

“Tonight was bigger than a football game,” Mountain Island Charter School coach Robert Washington said. “It was about battling for your brothers and that’s what they did tonight. It’s great to get the win because Thomas Jefferson is an outstanding football team, but tonight was about brotherhood and that goes beyond football.”

TJCA (9-1, 6-1 SPC) went three-and-and out on their first drive, but the Gryphon defense returned the favor. After another Gryphon punt. Justin Watkins answered with a big sack on fourth down to give TJCA the ball back, but a fumble returned it to the Raptors. Two personal fouls on TJCA give MICS (8-2, 6-1) a first-and-goal to start the second quarter.

Kobe Creamer scored on a six-yard quarterback draw early in the second quarter as TJCA faced their first deficit of the season. Cody Maxwell did run for a first down on the ensuing drive, but TJCA was forced to punt. The Raptors fumbled the punt and Eric Oyugi recovered. On the next play Grantt Logan hit Shemar Petty on a slant pass and the speedy senior did the rest, racing 54 yard for the tying score.

Mountain Island looked to take the lead on their next drive, but Todd Pledger’s 47-yard field goal attempt was wide right. The Gryphons could not take advantage of the good field position as Logan threw an interception. Darrell Johnson returned the pick 80 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back for a penalty. As a result, the score remained 7-7 at halftime.

TURNING POINT: Jaden Robinson returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter 80 yards for a touchdown to open the floodgates for the Raptors. A Brandon Johnson 35-yard punt return gave the visitors a 20-7 advantage before a safety and a six-yard pass from Creamer to Gabe Stephens put the game away. For good measure, Caleb Patton ran it in from 25 yards on the final play of the third as MICS extended its lead to 34-7.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Mountain Island Charter’s special teams. The Raptors scored two touchdowns and a safety in the third phase of the game, while they had touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns called back due to penalty.

“I thought special teams was the biggest difference in the game,” Washington said. “That third quarter kickoff was huge for us.”

UP NEXT: MICS will try to capture at least a share of the regular season conference title when it hosts Highland Tech. The Gryphons will try to do the same when they travel to Union Academy.