By Benjamin Leibowitz
While the weather may have been cold and dreary as the Christ the King football team walked off the field Sunday afternoon, the team couldn’t help feeling as if they were walking on sunshine.
By erasing a double-digit first-half deficit, the Royals succeeded in defeating Iona Prep 25-16 to stay perfect on the season and add yet another statement victory to the squad’s impressive resume this season.
After battling through the elements—which included bursts of pouring rain—in the first half, Christ the King settled into a rhythm down the stretch and, by the final whistle, the Royals’ defense was the difference maker.
“Our defense is stellar,” said Christ the King coach Jason Brown. “They’ve been playing very well for the last five weeks of the season. I can’t ask any more out of our guys.”
The Gaels set the tone of the game early, jumping out to a 16-point lead at halftime, but the Royals answered the call heading into the third quarter and Christ the King’s defensive leaders used that early-game frustration to their advantage. They hit—and they hit hard.
Junior linebacker Nicholas Hunter led the charge with 15 total tackles, while Justin Terry came up clutch for the second straight week, hauling in a key late-game interception.
Randy Pringle also made his presence known, racking up six tackles and an interception, keeping Iona Prep off its rhythm and giving the Royals offense a chance to work its way back into the game.
“My coach told me to sit back in the flats in Cover 4, and the quarterback threw a pass that was right to me, and fortunately I picked it off,” Pringle said. “This was an important win to put Christ the King on the map.”
While the defense delivered hit after hit, the Royals offense made sure to cash in on their opportunities and no one was more efficient than Siddiq Muhammad. The running back—who sat out the Royals’ week four victory over St. Francis Prep—notched 170 yards on the ground and found the end zone three times, including a 30-yard touchdown reception.
The Royals’ second-half performance was a welcome change for Muhammad, who, like his teammates, struggled in the rain early on.
“In the first half I couldn’t really run people over because the ball was slippery, and I had to make sure I held onto the ball,” Muhammad said. “Fortunately in the second half [running lanes] started to clear up, and everything on offense got better,” he said after the game.
Quarterback Demetrius Wilson threw the ball less than usual due to the wet conditions, but made sure to protect the rock and his touchdown pass to Muhammad was a game-changer.
The play almost didn’t happen, though, as the pass was deflected off and nearly landed in the hands of an Iona Prep defender. Muhammad was simply happy to find the ball in his hands.
“I was so happy that the guy missed the ball, because I was just in the right spot to make a big play for my team,” he said.
Despite having to battle the elements as well as the Gaels, Christ the King’s latest comeback is just another boost of confidence for a Royals team that is positive they can beat anyone.
“This is a big statement win,” Brown said. “I can’t remember the last time we beat Iona Prep.”