KNOXVILLE — Christian Academy of Knoxville football head coach Travis Mozingo never underestimates the importance of special teams for his football squad.
And Friday night, Sept. 20, it was special teams that helped the Warriors stay unbeaten, salting away a 28-14 victory over Silverdale Baptist Academy. CAK was locked in a Division II-AA East Region dogfight with the Seahawks, who scored a touchdown late to make things interesting.
But Kanye Harris quickly extinguished any threat when he returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. The Warriors then made a two-point conversion to get a tighter grip on the game.
“Special teams can be a difference maker,” Mozingo said. “And tonight, it was a special teams play that made the difference for us. That’s why we never take a special teams play off.
“Kanye is a 100-meter guy in the spring (track team) and he’s a 4-by-100 (relay) guy, so we know that he can break one at any time. We had our hands team out there, so he didn’t get a lot of blocking.”
Mozingo and the Warriors were expecting the Seahawks (1-3 overall 0-2 in the region) to attempt an onside kick. But Silverdale kicked the ball deep.
“You had about five minutes left on the clock and I think they had two timeouts left, so they probably figured that they had time to kick it deep,” Mozingo said.
For his part, Harris said he was just trying to make a play.
“I saw a big hole and I just wanted to hit it as hard as I could,” he said. “I was able to do that.”
The win helped the Warriors (5-0, 1-0) keep their perfect record intact and bring the returning CAK alumni a Homecoming Night victory.
“This feels great because we’ve all worked hard all offseason to get here,” Harris said. “But we still have a lot of work to do.”
The Warriors, who went 4-7 in 2018 and 2-9 during the 2017 season, are undefeated at the midway point of the season for the first time in recent memory.
“The last two years at CAK have been pretty lean and we’ve had injuries that have had a lot to do with that,” Mozingo said. “... And our numbers are down, but I’ll take my 42 (players) and go into battle with them, and our coaches work as hard as anybody in the state to prepare.”
After a scoreless first quarter, CAK went up 7-0 three minutes into the second frame. Running back Jarvis Stockton Jr. scored on a two-yard plunge. Zander Tonkin added the extra point.
Stockton Jr. finished with 63 yards on 16 carries. “This was all about my offensive line,” he said. “I couldn’t have done any of this without them.”
CAK would extend its edge to 14-0 a short time later when Ryan Degges found Caleb Sparkman on an 18-yard scoring strike.
After a Silverdale TD, the Warriors regained momentum when Degges threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Sparkman with 22.8 seconds left in the first half. It was a 20-7 CAK lead at the break.
Silverdale pulled to within 20-14 when Turner Junkins threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Mullins with 5:07 remaining in the contest.