HARRELLS – If things go as planned, the Harrells Christian Academy football team will play its next two games at Murphy-Johnson Stadium.

Hold on, though – it’s playoff time in the NCISAA and all teams “live” on the basis of their last game.

The Crusaders will need to avoid slow starts.

But the sluggish beginning didn’t hurt too much last Friday as HCA scored 22 unanswered points in the third quarter to beat No. 8 High Point Christian 48-27 .

“We didn’t play real well in the first half, coming out flat,” said Crusader coach Jason Arnette, whose team beat the HPC Cougars 52-42 on Aug. 27 in High Point.

Arnette said part of the reason for the slow beginning was many players were mourning the death of former HCA athlete Hill Lanier, who died earlier that day.

“That was obviously a big thing and we were dealing with it right up until kickoff,” he said. “We came out flat and just didn’t play well in the first half.”

Devin Gardner had three of his six touchdowns in the first half, as HCA clung to a 19-14 edge at the break.

Gardner added two more in the third and Xavier Arrington had a 50-yard score to up the margin to 41-14.

Opposing quarterback Myles Crisp, who had two first-half TD passes, tossed another early in the third. But HCA came back to go in front 48-20 when Gardner worked into the end zone from 15 yards out.

Crisp’s 1-yard run got the Eagles as close as they would get.

Crisp was 20 of 36 for 227 yards through the air. But High Point had little to show for its running game, as Crisp’s 29 yards netted all but 11.

“He was probably the best quarterback we played against all year,” Arnette said. “They moved him from quarterback that last few games and they struggled. He played a heck of a football game as a runner and quarterback.

“He beat us and we beat ourselves the other time with some dumb penalties and plays, which all led to more points than I would have liked to see.”

Gardner bullied his way for 302 yards and the six scores, while Arrington had 107 yards and a TD and High Point had no answers for the duo.

Gardner had scores from 17, 24, 6, 26, 1 and 15 yards. It was his second-most yards in a game this season. He ran for 376 yards on Sept. 9 against Pamlico County in Bayboro.

A dangerous

foe awaits

As the No. 1 seed in 2A, HCA will host No. 5 Charlotte Country Day, which beat No. 4 North Raleigh Christian 47-0 on Friday. Charlotte Country Day (2-5) will travel to HCA on Friday.

The winner advances to the final, and if HCA wins it will be in Harrells on Nov. 18.

Charlotte Country Day, which plays against 1A competition with large enrollments. The Buccaneers have as many as 15 players more on its roster than HCA and has played a tough schedule.

“They would probably be 8-2 in our division,” said Arnette, whose team lost to a bigger school in last years final influenced heavily by the Covid-19 pandemic. “They play all the bigger schools around Charlotte. Their combined record of non-conference schools they play is something like 29-4.

“They are going to be tough, and right now I’d have to say the toughest we play all year. They beat up on North Raleigh Christian, a team in our conference which is pretty good. “

A slow start should be avoided, Arnette said.

“They might come in thinking they have something to prove, but if we get off to a fast start maybe they will be discouraged. Getting up early would be nice.”

HCA will see a familiar attack, while the Bucaneers may be in for an adjustment with the Cru’s offensive plan: running the ball in the Wing T.

“They are a spread team and that’s all we’ve seen this year,” Arnette said. “On the other hand, they may have not seen our offense very much, if at all.”

Crusader Clipboard

  • HCA led Friday in nearly every statistical category, sans penalties (80-10) and passing yards (227-16).

- High Point punted four times, HCA did not have one as it averaged 9 yards per rush. HCA had more first downs, 22-18.

  • Trent Jackson paced HCA in tackles with 6.5. Ayden Fussell and Jahiem Murphy had four apiece and Ethan Spell and Gardner each came up with 3.5.
  • Gardner has blown free for 1,967 yards and 27 TDs He will reach the 2,000-yard plateau next week.
  • Arrington, who missed three games, could go over 1,000 yards, too. He’s at 890 and has 6 TDs.
  • Jackson is averaging 11.7 takedowns per game. Murphy is
  • at 6.4 and, Spell, Gardner and Fussell all around 5.6. Fussell and Arrington each have a pair of picks.

Michael Jaenicke can be reached at mjaenicke@ncweeklies.com

Michael Jaenicke can be reached at mjaenicke@ncweeklies.com