Faith’s debut in 11-man football yields victory

SAN ANTONIO — It took only one drive Sept. 8 to signal that the 2012 Faith Academy Flames — a team that just switched to 11-man football from six — are serious about winning.

The Flames of Marble Falls played their first game as an 11-man football squad against St. Anthony’s Catholic School of San Antonio at the University of the Incarnate Word and came away with a 16-8 win.

PHOTO 1: Faith Academy of Marble Falls senior Jason Byrd scores the Flames’ first touchdown of their 11-man debut and the 2012 season against St. Anthony’s Catholic High School of San Antonio as Faith senior Seth McAnally signals the score Sept 8 at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

PHOTO 2: Faith Academy of Marble Falls senior Brian Freeman finds a running lane against St. Anthony’s Catholic High School of San Antonio Sept 8 at the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

It not only marked the Flames’ (1-0) initial win in 11-man football, but head coach Russ Roberts’ 200th career victory.

“All that milestone means is that I’m old,” he joked. “It really means that Faith is in 11-man football for keeps.”

What’s more, other teams of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools  are likely taking notice.

Against St. Anthony, the Flames took their opening drive 64 yards — all on the ground — for the game’s first score.

It came courtesy of senior Jason Byrd, who bowled his way from the two-yard line. Then senior Seth McAnally caught the lateral and crossed the goal line for the two-point run for the 8-0 lead.

That advantage held until the Flames got the ball with three minutes remaining in the half. Faith drove 50 yards in seven plays that ended when Byrd ran in the touchdown from the three-yard line. Senior Brian Freeman wouldn’t be denied for the two-point run either, knocking down and running through four tacklers for the 16-0 lead that took 2:33 to complete.

The second half was about field position as the Flames didn’t allow the Yellow Jackets to get past St. Anthony’s 30-yard line.

So with about three minutes remaining and everything looking great for Faith, Yellow Jacket junior Justin DeLuna recovered the ball and ran it back 90 yards for a touchdown. St. Anthony added the two points to trim the deficit in half.

The Yellow Jackets needed to get the on-side kick but realized Faith was more experienced at handling the football thanks to its time as a six-man team. Instead they kicked it away.

The Flames eventually punted but left 74 seconds on the clock.

Faith junior defensive back Jake Diamond sealed the win with an interception with under a minute left.

Roberts said even when St. Anthony was looking for the equalizer, he never thought the Yellow Jackets would get it.

“I felt like our kids wanted it too much to let it go,” he said.

Faith had 232 yards of total offense, all running plays,

The victory wasn’t lost on the players. Several of them teared up, and most hugged family members, classmates and fans.

“Best birthday present ever,” said junior quarterback Austin Ellis, who was celebrating his birthday. “We were going to keep fighting. I’ve never had more fun in my life.”

Faith was a powerhouse in six-man football and had a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs had it stayed in that category.

But because of the school’s desire to move to 11-man, Roberts said his players put what’s best for the program in front of what they might have accomplished in six-man football.

“I’ve dedicated the season to eight seniors,” he said. “I said to myself they’re still going to play for a state championship. And they’re trying to do it.”

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