Tristan Herndon batted the ball into the air and then caught it as it descended for the game-saving interception, and the Trinity Christian Academy Conquerors outlasted the two-time defending state champion Vikings of William Raines High School 17-14 in a thrilling playoff-like regular-season finale for Conquerors Football.
On second down from the 12-yard line in Raines’s only overtime possession, Herndon penetrated the offensive line untouched and tipped the pass high into the air. Herndon followed the ball and outran Vikings quarterback Adrian Williams to the ball in the backfield. Herndon pulled down the interception and secured both the football and the win as he made a potential season-saving play for the Conquerors.
The play was set up by Latrell Wade’s two-yard tackle for a loss of Vikings star running back Nigel Smith on first down. Wade stormed through the line to make the big hit that forced 2nd and 12.
Just moments before, Trinity’s Clayton Roerig hit a 23-yard field goal to put the Conquerors ahead 17-14 after Raines had stopped the Trinity offense on a net 5-yard gain on the first three downs of overtime. The field goal was the second overtime game winner for Roerig in 2019. He hit one in Week 2 that helped Trinity defeat Godby in double-overtime.
After a scoreless first quarter that saw both offenses have opportunities thwarted by fourth-down stops in the red zone, Trinity finally broke through early in the second period on a drive that started at the Trinity 46 at the end of the first. The Conquerors marched downfield to the Raines 5-yard line in nine plays, highlighted by Kyjuan Herndon’s 20-yard dash and Pedro Velez’s power run of 15 yards. Quarterback Jacory Jordan then hit receiver Marcus Burke in the front corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Raines responded just before halftime when Smith went in untouched for a 13-yard touchdown run with 47.2 seconds left before halftime. The touchdown capped a 10-play, 49-yard drive during which Smith rushed four times, including the final three plays.
The Conquerors regained the lead 3:19 into the second half when Kyjuan Herndon capped a 6-play, 62-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter. Herndon had a 42-yard run during the drive that set Trinity up at the Raines 33. He scored four plays later. Herndon finished the night with 195 yards and one score on 27 carries.
The Vikings defense, however, took two possessions away from the Conquerors – one by interception and one by fumble recovery. The Vikings turned that interception late in the third quarter into the game-tying touchdown by driving 85 yards on 6 plays. Williams (19 yards) and Smith (58 yards) helped run the ball to set up 1st and Goal at the 8, and Jarius Stewart took it in and 2nd down from the 6.
Both defenses made it tough on the passing game. Jordan was 6 for 17 for 37 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Conquerors while Williams was 6 for 15 for 67 yards and an interception for Raines. Both teams fared much better on the ground. Trinity totaled 216 yards rushing while Raines, led by Smith’s 138 yards on 19 carries, ran for 195.
Caden Morrell had 10 total tackles (5 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. Latrell Wade and Sabion Wade each had six tackles, and Jahron Williams had 5. Clayton Thomas’s fumble recovery (forced by George Hawkins on a sack) stopped Raines at the Trinity 34 early in the second quarter.
The Conquerors (5-5) have completed their regular-season schedule and will await the final Class 3A, Region 1 RPI rating to see whom they will play in the first round of the playoffs and where. Most of the region’s teams have one game remaining in Week 11. The next update will come out after 2:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 29, and the final RPI rating is due on Tuesday, November 5.
PHOTOS: Cliff Willis, TCA Conquerors Athletics Videographer
STATS: Larry Withers, TCA Statistician