DONELSON—A dominant, near-perfect performance from the Donelson Christian Academy Wildcats put them one win away from clinching an appearance in the state championship with a 48-7 win over the Trinity Christian Academy Lions.
“I talked to a few coaches in the league, and everyone of them talked about how physical this team was,” said Donelson Christian coach Paul Wade. “To be honest, I was a little worried about how we would handle that based on the fact that we had some easier games to end the year and then had an off week. How would we match their physicality?”
Donelson Christian (11-0) did more than match Trinity Christian’s (7-5) physicality early on in the game. The Lions mustered a first down on a 23-yard pass from Jake Wilson to Will Allen Smith on third down to put them in Wildcats’ territory. However, a bad snap that resulted in a 25-yard loss and a rushing attempt that resulted in a loss of 8 on third down forced Trinity to punt the ball away.
Mr. Football semifinalist Jon Lewis made the Lions pay on the first Donelson Christian possession as he carried the ball six times for 77 yards on the drive that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown rush to put his team up 7-0 with 5:16 left in the first.
On the following Trinity possession, it seemed as if the Lions were about to be forced to punt the ball away again. However, a pass from Wilson to Joshua Todd down the sideline not only was good enough to convert the third and long, but it was also good for an 80-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 with 2:54 left in the first.
Donelson Christion took the long pass play from Trinity and raised them with one of its own. This time, it was a 52-yard pass from Bradford Gaines that hit Jacob Cook in stride for a touchdown. The Wildcats led 14-7 with 2:43 left in the first, and it appeared as if a shootout was about to break out at Ken Redmond Stadium.
Penalties and a vicious run-stopping defensive unit from Donelson Christian forced another Trinity punt that was downed at the Wildcats’ 31.
The Wildcats went back to their bread and butter as Lewis ran for his second touchdown of the night – this one from 24 yards out – to put Donelson Christian up 21-7 early in the second.
Trinity failed to take advantage of the next possession, and Donelson Christian made the Lions pay for it once more. Lewis scored his third touchdown of the half from 31 yards out, and Donelson Christian’s lead ballooned to 27-7 midway through the second.
The Lions committed their first turnover on the following possession when Gunner Schierling picked off a pass.
Donelson Christian turned the turnover into more points before the half when Lewis scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the game from 27 yards out to put the home team up 34-7 just before the half.
Donelson Christian took the opening possession of the second half and once again methodically marched down the field. Lewis punched it in from 7 yards out to score his fifth touchdown of the game and put the Wildcats up 41-7. Lewis finished the game with 287 yards on 22 carries to go with his five scores.
“I’m proud of Jon,” Wade said. “I said a few weeks ago that I thought he was a Mr. Football candidate, and he showed it tonight.”
For Lewis, the spotlight of the recognition hasn’t slowed him down as he takes things with a game-by-game approach.
“To be honest, I just take it a game at a time and a play at a time,” Lewis said. “I’m not really thinking too much about it. I’m just trying to play my heart out. It’s my senior year, so I have to give it all I got.”
Lewis also credited his fullback, Brady Russell, and the offensive line for creating running lanes and making the rushing attack a collaborative effort.
“I can’t thank them enough. I wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” Lewis said.
Russell, one of Lewis’ leading blockers, echoed Wade’s sentiment that Lewis belongs in the conversation as one of the best in their league.
“I think he’s an amazing player,” Russell said. “He’s very physical, the way he runs the ball, and I think he’s the best running back in our division and our whole region.”
Donelson Christian tacked on one more touchdown in garbage time when freshman Ashton Jones scored from 2 yards out to go up 48-7 late in the game.
The Donelson Christian defense also played a solid game as the Wildcats held the Lions to minus-11 rushing yards and was arguably their hardest-hitting game of the season.
“The fact we got the closest from being perfect, and at this stage in the game, you couldn’t ask for anything else because you want to be peaking at the end, and we feel like we’re right on track,” Wade said.
The Wildcats are one win away from playing in the state championship. A win against University School of Jackson (10-2), which defeated Middle Tennessee Christian 49-14 last Friday night, would send Donelson Christian back to Cookeville to play for a championship in the same stadium where they started the season in August.
“It’s very exciting,” Wade said. “…Every time I get asked this question, my mind goes back to two years ago when we were taking it in the jaw, and nobody was here to interview us, and none of our kids got accolades. It was a rough experience.”
Donelson Christian 48, Trinity Christian 7
RUSHING YARDS—Trinity Christian (-11). Donelson Christian 381.
PASSING YARDS—Trinity Christian 126, Donelson Christian 71.
TOTAL YARDS—Trinity Christian 115, Donelson Christian 452.
PENALTIES—Trinity Christian 4, Donelson Christian 12.
RUSHING—Trinity Christian, Needham Goodwin 8-24, Harrison Freeman 3-17, Bryse Carlton 1-(-4), Eli Morris 1-(-4), Eli Stewart 2-(-6), Jake Wilson 7-(-38). Donelson Christian, Jon Lewis 22-287, Ashton Jones 8-73, Jordan Lewis 2-9, Nathan Magalei 1-8, Wesley Gober 1-2, Bradford Gaines 2-2.
PASSING—Trinity Christian, Jake Wilson 7-11-126-1-1. Donelson Christian, Bradford Gaines 3-5-71-1-0.
RECEIVING—Trinity Christian, Joshua Todd 2-87, Will Allen Smith 4-38, Connor Graves 1-1. Donelson Christian, Jacob Cook 1-52, Dayton Sneed 1-13, Riley Stanton 1-6.
INTERCEPTIONS—Donelson Christian, Gunner Schierling.