Spartans defend their turf against Crusaders

Bainbridge Spartans player Jordan Wagner defends against a wall of Eastside Catholic players Friday during home action. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Bainbridge Spartans player Jordan Wagner defends against a wall of Eastside Catholic players Friday during home action.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Entering the second half of Friday's game against Eastside Catholic down 15-7, the Spartans took a chance and attempted an onside kick. Bainbridge recovered the kick but the team was called for illegal use of hands on the recovery.

On the next play, Eastside Catholic cashed in with a 38-yard touchdown pass from Connor McCormick to Alec Kimble.

After the extra point the Spartans trailed 22-7 with 11:48 remaining in the third quarter.

The Spartans could have packed it in there. They gave up multiple big-play touchdowns earlier in the game and their starting quarterback, Jordan Wagner, was on the sidelines with an injury. But the Spartans (3-2) channelled their namesakes and fought from the brink of defeat, scoring 29 unanswered points in just over a quarter of game time.

"You had every reason when we went down 22-7 to put your heads down," coach Andy Grimm told the players after the victory.

Grimm applauded the team's resiliency and fighting spirit.

But despite the loss of the starting quarterback, backup Carson Zajonc and running backs Alex Crane and Alex Johnson led the team offensively, and both Crane and Johnson intercepted McCormick to set up Bainbridge touchdowns.

"We all have our parts to play and everyone played their part tonight," Crane said.

Despite the sizable deficit, Bainbridge didn't deviate from its strength—the running game. Beginning at the 32-yard line, Crane gained 15 yards on an end-around. Two plays later, Johnson busted through the line of scrimmage and rumbled to a 44-yard touchdown. The extra point made the score 22-14.

On Eastside's next play, McCormick overthrew his receiver and the 5-foot-7-inch Crane leapt into the air, made the interception and returned the ball all the way to Eastside's two-yard line.

"I got myself into the right position, and the offense was able to take advantage," Crane said.

Johnson punched it on the next play for his second touchdown of the quarter.

Zajonc rolled out of the pocket and dove into the end zone to convert the two-point conversion, tying the game at 22.

As if scoring two touchdowns in less than two minutes of game time wasn't enough for Johnson, the senior running back intercepted McCormick on a deep pass to get the ball back for the Spartans with eight minutes left in the third quarter.

Bainbridge continued to move the ball on the ground in the third quarter, and Crane broke loose for a 34-yard run down to the Eastside six-yard line.

Zajonc was able to find Michael Cox on a roll-out play from four yards out to give Bainbridge a 29-22 lead.

Bainbridge held onto the ball for more than six minutes of game time during that drive.

Finding themselves on the wrong side of the score for the first time all game, the Crusaders needed to respond. But the Bainbridge defense pushed the offensive line of Eastside back, resulting in a loss of five yards on first down. On second down, William Touchette sacked McCormick for a seven-yard loss. Then on third and 22, Eastside Catholic got the ball to its playmaker Chevelle Walker, who was responsible for two of Eastside's touchdowns, once on a kick return from 92 yards out and the other a rushing score from two yards out. But Bainbridge bottled up the elusive back on the play, and throughout the second half.

After the stop, Bainbridge got the ball at the beginning of the fourth. The Spartans drained six minutes of game clock before Zajonc scored on a quarterback sneak from a yard out for the second time.

With less than six minutes left in the game, Eastside needed to put a drive together. But Crane came up big again, recording two pass breakups.

Bainbridge got the ball back with 5:19 left and Eastside's offense never saw the field again.

Grimm told his players after the game to be proud of their effort, but tomorrow it is time to start preparing for O'Dea. The Irish defeated Seattle Prep handily tonight, winning 40-13. Grimm said the team's next opponents don't try to trick anyone. They win with power and a solid rushing attack.

"We know we have a great challenge ahead of us," Grimm said. "They're going to want to run it right down our throat and eat up clock."

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