Down in flames

COLUMBIANA — Just like last season, the Hope Christian School Eagles’ football team fell behind the Flint Hill Flame early, only to come storming back.

But this time, the Flame went home victorious as Flint Hill held off a strong comeback by Hope to take the 26-14 win.

Things looked bleak for the Eagles (0-1) from the onset when junior quarterback Zac Hughes lost the exchange from center on the opening play from scrimmage to give Flint Hill the ball in Eagle territory.

With just 1:15 into the game, the Flame struck first on a 1-yard touchdown run by Trey Black set up by a long run by quarterback Trinton Robinson.

Following the extra point, the Flame held Hope to three-and-out before striking again on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Jared Taylor.

The Eagles turned the ball right back over on the ensuing possession, as Hughes was intercepted by Taylor.

The Flame struck once again on the next series when Robinson hit Taylor from 37 yards out to give Flint Hill a 19-0 lead just 5:32 into the game.

Things looked even worse for the Eagles on the next possession when the Eagles fumbled on an option toss from Hughes to Eric Spence.

But that’s when the Eagle defense went to work.

The Flame drove nearly the length of the field following the fumble recovery, but the Eagles held on a goal line stand to take the turnover on downs.

The second quarter was all Hope as Hughes connected with Caleb Douglas from 30 yards out just 39 seconds into the quarter to cut the lead to 19-6.

After forcing the Flame to punt, Hughes went back to the air, connecting on a 46-yard strike to cut the lead to 19-14. The two teams forced each other to turn the ball over on downs before Hope’s final drive of the half ran out of time on the Flint Hill 10.

“Our team sucked it up and got in there and did what they needed to do,” Hope head coach Mark Rettig said of his team’s second-quarter resilience.

Although neither team scored in the third quarter, the Eagles forced and recovered three turnovers, as Karry Jones picked up a fumble on the Flame’s opening drive and Hughes picked off two Flint Hill passes.

“The defense really stepped up to the plate and I really feel like Zac Hughes contributed big time,” Rettig said.

The Eagles also tried a fake punt that failed by two yards and turned the ball over on downs inside the red zone in the quarter.

The Flame scored on a 55-yard run by Black to close out the scoring for the night.

Rettig said this year’s team is young and needs more conditioning to get where they need to be, but Friday’s battle with Flint Hill was a great measuring stick to get the team ready for Evangel Family Christian of Montgomery next week.

“We’ve got some things to work on,” Rettig said.

The Eagles host Evangel Family Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. in Columbiana.