REFLECTIONS: Lakeland Evangel Christian defeated Berkeley Prep 43-23 Friday night in a Class A, Region 3 semifinal. Saturday, coaches Brian Davis of Evangel Christian and Frank Sullivan of Berkeley Prep held a three-way phone conversation with the Times to discuss the game.
By Times staff writers
Published November 21, 2004
The first quarter saw four touchdowns and the third quarter none. What did you do to slow down the other offense?
BRIAN DAVIS: We made some adjustments bringing some quickness to our defensive line because the size of the Berkeley line was just too much for us. We needed to counter quarterback Derek Hatcher by getting into their backfield more quickly to disrupt them.
FRANK SULLIVAN: We had to do something to slow down their two great running backs, Austin Davis (137 yards) and Rod Coby (195 yards) so we tried to keep them from getting outside like Davis did on his first touchdown run of 52 yards. We knew we weren't going to be able to stop them completely so slowing them down and making them work harder by going inside was our strategy.
Berkeley had the ball on the Evangel 40-yard line, third and 1, with five minutes left, down 29-23. A delay of game penalty against the Bucs led to an interception and an insurance score for Evangel Christian. What were your thoughts at that time?
BD: It was great, obviously, from our point of view. They were driving and eating the clock, moving towards a go-ahead score. I thought at first the flag was for encroachment on our part. That call gave us great momentum. We stopped Derek on third down and then we were fortunate to get that interception and return it down into scoring position.
FS: That is only the second time this year that we have had a delay of game penalty. It was a tough time to get it because it totally changed the complexion of the game. You usually can sense when you are getting down near the 25-second mark to get the play off. None of our coaches felt that was happening at that time. But I do not want to take anything away from Coach Davis' team. They played extremely well and got a well-deserved win.
Coach Sullivan, have you seen a backfield duo as good as Coby and Davis?
FS: No, not at this level I haven't. As soon as we would hold one of them for short gains on a couple of plays, the other one would break loose on us. They are two very talented football players.
Coach Davis, your thoughts on the Berkeley offense.
BD: A few years ago in a Kickoff Classic, Derek (Hatcher) ran a punt back for a touchdown against us and I saw then that he was something special. He has had a wonderful career at Berkeley. And he is as nice a young man as he is a great player. We knew coming in we had to stop him. He gave us fits all night and that TD pass just before the half (39 yards to Andrew McAdams) was a thing of beauty.
How did your teams react to that touchdown just before the half?
FS: These are high school kids and any time you get an exciting score like that they really get pumped up. We had to bring them back down in the locker room because we still had to find a way to stop their running game. But no doubt about it, it was huge at the time.
BD: The play before that we had their punter on the run trying to race after a high snap over his head 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He got the ball, punted it, and we were called for roughing the kicker. That gave them a first down around mid-field and Derek threw a touchdown pass on the very next play. So instead of us having the ball inside their 20 yard-line and maybe going up by two scores, they are lining up for an extra point. But that's why he is so special. We told our kids they had 24 minutes left to be able to continue playing beyond Thanksgiving and they responded, just as they have all year.
With nine minutes left in the game, Berkeley was up 23-21 on McAdams' 40-yard field goal. What were your thoughts during that fourth quarter?
FS: Coming into the game, I had a feeling that the game was going to be like a heavyweight fight and the last team standing was going to win. And that's what it was. Each of us countered the other team's scores in that first quarter. It was going to come down to the team that made the last mistake would probably lose. And that is what happened when we missed getting that key first down late in the game and they responded by going in for a score.
BD: Coach Sullivan is right. It was like a heavyweight match, blow for blow. We tried to put them away early, but they wouldn't quit - 7-0, 7-7, 14-7, 14-14, 21-14, and 21-20 in that first half alone. People who came out to see a great high football game sure got one.
If you faced each other again next week, is there anything you would do differently?
FS: I don't think so. I think our players and coaches did a great job in getting ready for a tough opponent and carried out what I thought was a good game plan. We knew their strengths and we did all we could to stop them. They are a fine team and we wish them well in the regional final next week.
BD: I agree with Frank. I think both teams did all they could possibly do to win. I think the way that they kept on coming back was a tribute to their dedication to leave it all on the field, and I mean both teams. Believe me, the final margin of 43-23 was not indicative of the closeness and intensity of the game. It was very hard fought and we tip our cap to a great Berkeley Prep team.
- SCOTT PURKS, Times staff writer, and JIM REESE, Times correspondent