It was Friday afternoon, Chattanooga Christian School's Division II-AA East Region football game against visiting Grace Christian Academy of Knoxville still five hours away, when CCS coach Mark Mariakis said of his improving Chargers, "We're just now coming together."
After beating the Rams 47-13 on Friday night, it would be hard to argue with that assessment of his team, which not only improved to 4-4 overall and 3-2 in DII-AA East, but locked up a playoff berth for the fifth straight season.
"We're starting five freshmen and seven sophomores," Mariakis said after the Chargers piled up 506 yards of offense, all of it on the ground. "We've only got four seniors out of 64 kids, so we feel like our best days should be ahead of us."
As usual, sophomore running back Boo Carter was the best player on the field for CCS, scoring four touchdowns and finishing with a whopping 276 yards despite playing less than three quarters. And when Carter didn't score, fellow running back Javoris Havis did, the junior reaching the end zone three times and totaling 100 yards. Sophomore running back Da'Rell Brown didn't score, but he did pick up 88 yards for the winners.
"It feels amazing to reach the playoffs," said Carter, who is already drawing college interest from a handful of Power Five conference teams. "(Playing) Baylor and McCallie prepared us for the next level. Games we play now feel a lot easier after playing them."
Indeed, though the Chargers were humbled against the two Division II-AAA powerhouses, losing the games by an average of 40 points, they've since beaten Notre Dame 48-3 and Boyd-Buchanan 57-13. Carter totaled 279 rushing yards against the latter.
Now CCS has a week off before hosting Knoxville Webb on Oct. 29.
Even though CCS ran away with this one in the final half after leading 27-13 at intermission, it was 13-all with 8:29 to go in the second quarter.
But the Chargers took the lead for good with 2:58 to play in the second quarter when Havis ran it into the end zone from 23 yards out on fourth-and-2. Two plays later, Chargers defensive back BJ Holland intercepted a pass, and with 53 seconds left in the opening half, Carter went 37 yards for his second touchdown of the night and a 27-13 halftime lead.
He added a 49-yard touchdown run less than two minutes into the second half, then an 80-yard scoring run two minutes later against the Rams (1-6, 0-4).
And as good as the Chargers were on offense, they also intercepted three passes, with Holland, Rafe Montgomery and AJ Wallace recording the picks.
Still, Mariakis understands the key to the Chargers is probably Carter.
"We know what we've got," the coach said. "We know Boo's going to be in the backfield taking the ball."
And quite possibly taking CCS deep into the playoffs as he goes.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.