MT. JULIET — The Mt. Juliet Christian Academy Saints had their inaugural playoff hopes dashed Friday night with a 24-0 loss to Zion Christian at Suey Field.
It was a hard-fought, hard-hitting game for three quarters with the score standing at 7-0 in favor of Zion Christian heading to the final stanza.
The Eagles took advantage of two Saint turnovers — a fumble and an interception — to break the game open and clinch a spot in the TSSAA playoffs.
"We had to get some breaks to be able to break the game open," Zion coach Bob Yancey said after his Eagles returned to Columbia 4-5 for the season and 3-3 in the East-Middle Region. "Mt. Juliet Christian is a much improved team from last year."
The Saints had a chance early to get on the scoreboard as the team drove the ball inside the Eagle 20-yard line. A holding penalty, however, moved the ball back to the 30 and set up a long down and distance. On a fourth-and-long play, the Saints went for the first down but were stopped several yards short and Zion took over.
The only scoring in the first half was set up on a field-goal attempt by the Eagles.
Instead of kicking the field goal, the Eagles ran a fake with Zac Pylant scrambling to his left and throwing a pass to a wide-open Grant Jernigan. It would be the first of two touchdown catches for Jernigan in the game.
The second half was more hard hitting as both teams' running games were neutralized.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Eagles scored, set up by a 29-yard run by Terrell Blakesleay that put Zion inside the 20. From there Kyle Kilgore kicked a 32-yard field goal to make the score 10-0.
Zion Christian scored twice more off Saint turnovers. The first one was a fumble recovered inside the 10-yard line. Quarterback Jesse Buckner found Jernigan again, this time from 8 yards out to make the score 17-0 with 26 seconds played in the fourth quarter.
The final score was an interception by Colt Duncan, who returned the ball 15 yards to the end zone for the final score.
"Our defense played extremely well, but our offense is lacking. We have too many turnovers and we need to take better care of the ball." Saints coach Mark Harrison said after his Saints slipped to 2-7, 1-4.
Mt. Juliet Christian will travel to Fayetteville next week to take on Riverside Christian at 7 p.m. Zion Christian will go to Lancaster
Christian in Smyrna next week to close out the regular season before awaiting its playoff marching orders.