By Zach Shugan
ROSWELL, Ga. — In the 2021 region opener for Fellowship Christian and St. Francis, the Paladins took care of business and showed they’re still the team to beat in Region 6-A Private.
Victory was never really in doubt for Fellowship, which jumped out a 30-0 lead in the first half and ended up winning 40-7 over the Knights on Friday at Bob Lord Field. The back-to-back region champions used a relentless run game and smothering defensive effort to win their 19th region game in a row and improve to 4-1 this season.
“We played against a big, athletic team tonight,” Fellowship head coach Tim McFarlin said. “[St. Francis head coach] Frank Barden has done a great job with this program. They’re going to be scary in about a year. It was a good win for us.”
Nick Persiano (13 carries, 46 yards, 2 touchdowns) put the Paladins on the board first with a 2-yard touchdown run, capping off a drive in which he carried the ball eight times. The junior running back scored again on Fellowship’s next drive after a blocked punt set the team up on offense at the Knights’ 3-yard line.
Following a 25-yard field goal by Nathan Chapman early in the second quarter, the Paladins added to their lead with a pick six by Josh Milhollin. Their final score of the first half came on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Caleb McMickle to Josh Cole.
Fellowship fed Garrett Wagner on the opening drive of the second half, handing off the ball to the senior four times. He gained 49 yards, with the final carry going three yards for a touchdown. Chapman (2-2 FG, 3-4 PAT) hit from 33 yards out on the Paladins’ next drive, giving them a 40-point lead with over a quarter to play.
In addition to the 17 carries for 95 yards and 3 touchdowns from Persiano and Wagner, sophomore Noah Falcon toted the rock eight times for 29 yards.
“It’s always going to be the rushing game in this offense,” McFarlin said. “It starts with the offensive line. They’re the most important guys on the field. There were times we got outmatched a little bit tonight, but we are not going to back off the run game.”
The Paladins scored on all but one of their first seven drives to build a 40-point lead. The only drive they didn’t score on during that stretch was the final drive of the first half, which started with 51 seconds on the clock.
The Knights avoided a shutout with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Tayshon Lemon to Roman Stamps with a couple minutes left in the game and Fellowship’s starters on the sideline.
“I thought the kids played well,” McFarlin said. “For us, it’s not about who we’re playing or anything. I Just want us to get better every week. We did that the last two weeks. Tonight, we played well but I don’t think we were quite as sharp. We’re just trying to get better. We got to set our sights on every game and hopefully we get to the playoffs. We’re a long way from being a team that’s going to make a run, but I think we can get there.”
The Paladins, who entered the contest ranked No. 6 in Class A Private, continue region play next week at Lakeview Academy (1-3). St. Francis (0-5) hosts Walker next week in a non-region game.