Cornerstone escapes with win over Sumter

Cornerstone Christian School coach Tim Smith was worried about his first-round game with Sumter Academy in the Alabama Independent Schools Association Class 1A playoffs, and for good reason. Despite defeating the Eagles in a 40-6 rout earlier in the season, Cornerstone escaped with a 14-12 victory after Sumter Academy missed a 34-yard field goal with 25 seconds remaining in the game Friday night.

“I was concerned with the focus we had during the week,” Smith said. “Sumter had three or four players out the first time we played them and they were all back this time.”

Cornerstone (9-1) took the opening kickoff and drove the length of the field before fumbling inside Sumter’s 10-yard line. It would be one of three fumbles the Chargers would lose on the night.

Sumter took over and used a little trickery on its first drive to gain some early momentum. On fourth-and-6 from their own 18-yard line, the Eagles faked a punt and took it past midfield on a 40-yard run. Sumter scored a few plays later to take a 6-0 lead after a missed extra point.

Cornerstone struggled to maintain a scoring drive until LaDarius King scored on a short run midway through the second quarter. KaDarius King’s extra-point kick gave the Chargers a 7-6 lead.

Sumter took over and continued its punishing ground game, which allowed the Eagles to rush for over 200 yards on the night. The Eagles would retake the lead right before the half ended, but Cornerstone’s defense denied Sumter on the 2-point conversion to go into halftime trailing, 12-6.

The second half saw both defenses dominate as neither team scored in the third quarter.

Cornerstone’s offense was able to retake the lead with just over five minutes remaining in the game, as Lance Benton hit J.V. McKinney on a fade route in the corner of the end zone. KaDarius King’s extra-point kick gave the Chargers a 14-12 lead.

Sumter took the ensuing kickoff and marched down the field, where they would line up for a 34-yard field-goal attempt. The kick came up short and Cornerstone took a knee to seal the victory.

With the victory, Cornerstone advances to the second round of the AISA playoffs, where they will travel to Butler to face Patrician Academy, the defending Class 1A state champion.

Smith knows it will take a much better effort if the Chargers plan to advance to the state championship game for the second time in three years.

“We have to hold onto the football in order to have a chance to win next week,” Smith said. “We can’t turn the ball over if we want to win against Patrician.”

LaDarius King led Cornerstone on the ground with 21 carries for 89 yards rushing and a touchdown. Lance Benton completed four passes for 64 yards with a touchdown. J.V. McKinney had 50 receiving yards with a touchdown. Patrick Shaw led the defense with nine tackles.