On Saturday Aug. 28, the Knights football team took the two-hour drive to compete against in-state powerhouse, Rabun County. However, the game was unlike any other played by the Pace football team. It aired on ESPN2 as they showcased their talents in front of a national audience.
About 50 upper school students along with family members traveled along with the boys to support them. The fans, dressed in a Hawaiian theme, cheered on their peers from the sideline.
This would be the last time the experienced seniors would play their first high school game of the season, but an added amount of stress followed the national stage. “There were a lot of nerves across the board from freshmen all the way up to seniors like myself. It’s a feeling that everyone will be watching you and your performance, so it adds stress on you to play well,” said Harvard commit senior Xavier Agostino.
The Knights faced an extremely talented football team including one of the top quarterbacks in the country, Gunner Stockton. The University of Georgia commit currently has the fourth most total passing yards in Georgia high school history. He follows star quarterbacks Jake Fromm, Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence on that list.
The game started with a beautiful touchback kick from junior Andrew Swann. On the first possession of the afternoon, Stockton threw a 69-yard screen pass leading to a touchdown from the Wildcats. However, the Knights answered on the very next drive with a 66 yard run from sophomore Christian Johnson. Key blocks from Kylen Shields and Frank Caldwell led to the opening that Johnson took advantage of.
After Pace scored their first seven points, Andrew Swann recovered a fumble off of his second kick of the night. Stockton then threw for two unanswered touchdowns before the Knights could get into the end zone again. However, sophomore quarterback Maddox Crawford threw a beautiful ball to senior Jae Williams to set them up in field goal range just one possession later. A three-yard touchdown run from Johnson capped off the last drive in which Pace put up points on the board.
The rest of the Saturday night in Rabun was all Wildcats, as they punched in 28 more points before the final buzzer sounded. An intermission of this Rabun run occurred as junior quarterback Conner Phelan entered the game completing a first down on his only play of that drive. “I was very nervous knowing we were gonna throw it on 3rd and long, but just stuck to what I do in practice and completed the ball,” said Phelan.
The game wrapped up with a score of 47-14, but there were some important takeaways from the night. “We have a lot to learn and a lot more work to put in. When mistakes are made, we need to have a short-term memory,” said Johnson. Agostino feels confident that the Knights will be okay and make a playoff run later this season. “There was some good and some bad on Saturday night,” he said. “There are only lessons from this loss, and we will see them later this season.”