Eagle Academy III parlays strong defense into championship

Eagle Academy III parlays strong defense into championship
Eagle Academy III poses with its championship banner after defeating FDA 12-6 in the PSAL cup championship at MCU Park.
Photo by Laura Amato
By Laura Amato

The Eagle Academy III football team never had any doubt that its defensive line would hold.

Coach Kevin Williams stood in front of his players Saturday night, looked them in the eye and told them they were going to win. Their defense would not back down. It would hit and hit hard.

It did. Twice.

The Eagles staged a pair of goal-line stands—once at the end of regulation and again in overtime—to notch a 12-6 victory over Frederick Douglass Academy and secure the PSAL cup championship at MCU Park. Gary Newman scored the game-winning touchdown on Eagle Academy’s overtime possession.

“We hang our hat on our defense,” Williams said. “This wasn’t the first time we had to make a big stop. The first thing I said when they got it, was ‘We’ve been here before.’ I knew going into overtime they were never going to score.”

It was a defensive showdown throughout the game, as both teams struggled to move the ball in the second half following early touchdowns. Eagle Academy (12-0) thought it had a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, however, when Tyler Nation picked off Lions quarterback Omari Hill with 1:25 left on the clock.

But on the very next play, a tipped ball in the middle of the field turned into an interception and FDA took over on the 16-yard line. The Eagles’ defense didn’t miss a beat, forcing Hill out of bounds on fourth down at the two-yard line as time expired.

“The defense held it down today,” Newman said. “We did our job. We came up with a couple of clutch plays and tackles.”

FDA converted a fourth-and-four on its OT drive as Hill evaded tackles in the backfield and set the ball up on the seven-yard line. An offsides penalty two plays later put the Lions (11-1) up at the two-yard line, but, once again the Eagles held strong—dropping Mamadou Miete for a loss and keeping Hill out of the end zone on fourth and goal.

“It’s about going back to your roots, finding what’s inside of you and finding your why,” said junior linebacker Omar Morrissey, who notched the game-saving tackle. “That why is what got us that stop on fourth down.”

Newman made good on his late pick on the Eagles’ ensuing possession—hitting Dean Parham for a 21-yard strike on third down and following up with a one-yard run for the game-winning touchdown.

“To come out here and get clutch moments like this, that really helped a lot and meant a lot,” Newman said. “I just put my shoulder down and hit him.”

The Eagles fell to FDA in the semifinals of last year’s postseason, but since then have been nothing short of dominant. It’s a shift in gridiron culture that has the school anxious for what’s next, determined to defend its title again next fall.

“As you look up that sideline you see a lot of heart, but not a lot of numbers,” Williams said. “I’d rather bring 10 wolves than 100 sheep though and that’s what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of wolves on that sideline. They wanted it. They were not going to leave here without a victory.”

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