FRA football fans stood Friday night on the visitor bleachers at Christ Presbyterian Academy as the Panthers pulled off the biggest win of a magical season under first-year coach Justin Geisinger.
"F-R-A. F-R-A. F-R-A," the crowd chanted following a 39-38 win over perennial Division II-AA powerhouse CPA in a back-and-forth contest that wasn't decided until freshman Michael Hassell picked off Braden Streeter's pass with under 1:30 left.
"This is huge," said FRA senior offensive tackle Joe Crocker, a Mississippi State commitment. "Everyone doubts us. We saw all the score predictions — CPA 28-24, or whatever. For us, we used that as motivation. This is a marking point for us."
Geisinger, who left Pope John Paul II to replace Bill Whittemore in the offseason, called this validation. Validation for what he's been telling his team, coaches, administrators and parents all season.
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The win over CPA (3-4, 2-1 DII-AA Middle Region) was the first for the Panthers (6-1, 2-1) since 1997.
"This validates a lot of things," Geisinger said. "It helps validate things for the kids and the community. We asked for a lot of change culturally the way we expect them to do things on and off the field. Some things were hard, especially for the senior class. We weren't sure if we'd see results this quickly."
FRA's lone loss is to defending DII-AA state champion Lipscomb Academy, the top ranked team in the state in the Tennessee Super 25 high school football rankings. FRA went 5-13 over the past two years, including 4-7 a year ago before Geisinger stepped in.
And now the Panthers are second place in the DII-AA Middle region.
It took a strong run game, a calm quarterback and a little trickery to hand the Lions a rare second straight loss. Ty Clark III ran for 124 yards and two TDs on 22 carries. Bobby Council ran for 56 yards and two TDs — the second on a trick play when he went under center after quarterback Logan Kinnard walked away from his shotgun stance, looking at the sidelines. Council then went under center, took the snap and ran it in for an 8-yard TD run with 4:06 left.
It was the second time the Panthers ran the play. The first time, Council picked up a first down in the first half.
"Our coach trusts us enough and we trust him enough that anything he calls we can execute," Council said. "That's how we all feel."
Kinnard, a first-year starter at quarterback, was 20-for-30 for 252 yards with two interceptions.
Council's score came after a 34-yard TD catch from Streeter to Vanderbilt commitment Logan Humphreys. Humphreys answered, reeling in a a 37-yard TD pass, his fourth of the night.
But FRA followed with Boyd Brown's short TD run for the game winner with 1:51 left.
Reach Tom Kreager at 615-259-8089 or firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Kreager.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: TSSAA football: FRA shocks CPA thanks in part to trick play