St. Augustine’s has been in a dogfight all season.
The Falcons first had to fight off the bad publicity and controversy surrounding the firing of their 13-year head coach Michael Costa in August.
Then they had to deal emotionally withthe sudden deaths of three members of the football family.
But the season’s turmoil was temporarily forgotten Saturday after St. Aug’s defeated archrival Shaw 16-9 to end a disappointing regular season for both teams.
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The win was the Falcons’ third of the season and broke a three-game losing streak. The Bears, who also won three games, lost to St. Aug’s for only the second time since 2009.
“This has been a tough season for us as a team,” senior defensive back John’taCooper said. “But this win soothes a lot. All 11 players played as one unit today.”
Cooper broke his own school interception record in spectacular fashion on Senior Day. With Shaw driving for a possible tying touchdown, Cooper intercepted quarterback Trey Folston with 1 minute, 51 seconds left to secure the win and earn his 10th interception.
St. Aug’s defense intercepted Folston three times, sacked him four times for a loss of 29 yards, and kept Shaw’s offense out of the end zone despite allowing 165 rushing yards by running back Marquise Grizzle.
“This is an exciting win and I’m just happy for the kids,” Falcons interim coach Michael Morand said. “This has been a trying year, and we got beat bad by them last year. Finally, we get the reward.”
Shaw (2-5, 3-7 CIAA) took a 3-0 lead after a forced fumble on a sack of quarterback Cyril Davis at the St. Aug’s 29. The Bears’ drive stalled at the 7, setting up Ian Burris’ 25-yard field goal.
The Falcons (3-4, 3-7) tied the score with a 75-yard drive that culminated with Michael Lima’s 25-yard field goal with 4:34 left in the first quarter. Lima gave St. Aug’s a 6-3 lead – and set a school record for longest field goal – with a 49-yarder before halftime.
Freshman wide receiver Claytin Lewis gave the Falconssome breathing room with a 91-yard kick return to start the third quarter.
Lima added his third field goal of the game, a 28-yarder, for a 16-3 St. Aug’s lead.
“I am so proud of our team,” Lima said. “We went through so much this year, and we could have quit, but we kept fighting.”
But the Bears had their chances. Shaw advanced inside the St. Aug’s 20-yard line three times but scored just once. And the Bears were 1-for-5 on fourth-down conversions.
Shaw’s lone touchdown came on a fumble recovery by defensive back Raheem Bramwell, who rumbled 30 yards with 4:23 left in the game. But the extra-point attempt was blocked, leaving the Bears trailing 16-9.
Morand said he wasn’t concerned over his job status.
“I just want to thank interim President Everett Ward for giving me this opportunity, but I’m more worried about the kids. That’s where my focus is,” he said.