LARGO — Indian Rocks Christian advanced to its first state semifinal with a 28-14 win over Naples First Baptist . The Golden Eagles blanked the Lions in the second half and held them to 10 rushing yards in a signature win for coach Mark Buchanan, who got a water cooler bath after IRC recovered a fumble with less than 40 seconds to play.
The win marks the first region title for the Golden Eagles, who will host the state semifinals next Friday.
Buchanan was masterful in his game plan. The Golden Eagles run the ball with Zeke McGaughy, Theo Anderson and Damian King and every once in a while pop King or Ryan Ferguson with a pass. Buchanan called McGaughy’s number most of the first half.
“I’d like to say we were setting him (Anderson) up,” Buchanan said. “But I think it was more they (First Baptist) forgot about him.”
Anderson’s 50-yard run in the first half set the stage for an 82-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He finished with 175 yards on 11 carries.
King rose to the occasion, snaring two interceptions. The first snuffed out a Lions drive in the third quarter and the second virtually sealed the game as it gave the ball back for IRC with a two-touchdown lead and four minutes to play.
“I knew they were gonna target 88 (Tyler Brecher) so I just stayed with him and made the play when I needed to,” King said.
The Golden Eagles played their game, rushing for 343 yards and dominating time of possession nearly 3-1 . IRC defense was on the field only four minutes in the second half.
“We knew we were just going to run the ball (once we got the lead), but then they stacked the box and we had some one-on-ones with Damian (King),” Buchanan said. “We will take that any time.”
King had four interceptions, but two were called back on penalties. He cut underneath a Lions defender for a 14-yard touchdown that settled the final score. King had 150 yards of offense, and Garrett Ross Johnson threw for 94 yards and two touchdowns.
“(Ross Johnson) made some big throws on third down,” Buchanan said. “We were not going to ask him to win the game for us but he was going to have to make some plays on third down and he did that.”