By Lee Noles
MONROE – There was no doubt Ishod Finger was the catalyst behind the offensive attack for Metrolina Christian’s football program last year as he rushed for a Union County record 2,478 yards and led the team with 34 touchdowns.
But after Finger moved on to play for the Charlotte 49ers, the Warriors knew a more balanced offense was needed if they wanted to repeat as Metrolina Athletic Conference champs and return to the private school playoffs.
They got what they were looking for Aug. 24 with a commanding 46-0 home win over rival Union Academy.
Senior quarterback Myles Saxton completed 13 of 22 passes, threw for 195 yards and four touchdowns, and ran for 20 yards and another score. Newcomer Jadus Davis rushed 19 times for 132 yards and added a score in only his second start for the Warriors. Receiver Colby Girard hauled in a team-high 113 yards and a touchdown.
“Everybody on this team has to play a key role,” Saxton said. “Our receivers have to make good plays. I wouldn’t be able to throw the ball without the offensive line blocking and we need (Davis) hitting the holes. And we saw that tonight. And that is why we had the success we did.”
The win was in stark contrast to the Warriors’ season opener when University Christian took advantage of two early turnovers to race out to a two-touchdown advantage. It was a lead the Fighting Christians never relinquished as they cruised to a 34-16 road victory.
On Aug. 24, it was Metrolina who had the strong start by scoring three times in the first quarter. Saxton had his hands in two of the touchdowns. His first came after he corralled a bobbled snap and sprinted into the endzone for an eight-yard score. He then capped a four-play scoring drive by completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Jett Townson. Metrolina finished the first quarter barrage when sophomore linebacker Colton Fitch recovered a turnover by the Cardinals special team in the endzone for a 20-0 advantage.
“We didn’t play well last week, and we didn’t execute,” Metrolina coach Thomas Langley said. “In practice, we focused more on the details, and I think our guys came out with a little more of an edge tonight.”
Davis was one Warrior who benefited from the added focus at practice. A transfer from Forest Hills, Davis was expected to play receiver but found himself thrust into the backfield when sophomore running back Jack Crump missed the first two games with an injury. Davis admitted he struggled against University Christian by not waiting for the offensive line to open the holes. Against the Cardinals, Davis’ timing was near perfect. His 16-yard touchdown run off the right tackle pushed the Warrior lead to 39-0.
“I just needed a week,” Davis said of adjusting to the position change. “I watched film from the week before, and I saw I need to wait to see the holes, and that is what I did.”
Langley said the film session also revealed openings in the secondary, which Saxton exploited by continually finding receivers for short strikes. In addition to Girard’s explosive night, which included an 80-yard scoring catch in the fourth quarter, Townson added two touchdowns on five catches. Jed Wooten also had a touchdown on a 14-yard pass from Saxton.
“We just preached all week about execution and to go out there and do it at full speed,” Langley said. “Colby, Jed and all the receivers went out there and executed. I think that is what made us successful.”
The Warriors’ defense turned in their own stellar performance with Fitch leading the team with seven tackles. Jacob Hattaway and Dylan Quick each added a sack. Quick also had six tackles, and Hattaway, Girard and Indiana Moen had five tackles apiece.
The Cardinals got a great performance from Derek Young Jr., who caught a game-high eight passes for 136 yards, but the Cardinals could only manage 201 yards of total offense.
“They physically just whipped us. Let’s face it,” Union Academy coach Justin Frashier said. “On both sides of the ball. Special teams, they were just better. I hate to admit that, but they were. I think we weren’t ready. And that’s my fault. It’s on me. You can’t put that on 16-and 17-year-old kids, and I have to fix it this week.”