Stingrays fall short in playoff opener

Lighthouse Private Christian Academy made its first playoff appearance in program history Friday night in Pensacola.

But there was no victory to go along with the historic football moment on a chilly November evening at Victor Randall Stadium.

The journey ended here with a 20-14 loss to Akelynn’s Angels Christian Academy.

The Stingrays battled throughout and had an opportunity to win it in the final minutes.

A 25-yard run by Iverson Armstrong pushed Lighthouse across the 50-yard line.

An intentional grounding call on a spike attempt a couple of plays later backed the Stingrays up 15 yards.

An interception near midfield with a just over minute to play ended Lighthouse’s hopes of rallying for a spot in the Florida Independent Christian Athletic Association title game.

The game started off well enough.

Jannarius Mack’s 26-yard touchdown catch down the right sideline gave the Stingrays a 6-0 lead with 8:23 to go in the opening quarter.

The first quarter ended in a 6-6 tie.

Mack broke it in the second by catching his second scoring strike of the night from Malik Walker. Keldrick Koen then scored on a two-point conversion, giving Lighthouse a 14-6 lead at halftime.

The Wildcats took the lead for good at 20-14 with 6:09 left in the third. From there, missed opportunities kept the Stingrays from tilting the momentum back in their favor.

“I look at it at the end of the night, replaying it in my head, and we had so many opportunities,” Lighthouse head coach Oliver Longley said. “We weren’t able to take advantage of them.”

And that proved to be the difference. Longley praised his team for its effort despite the loss.

“They are a young team, but they played their hearts out tonight,” Longley said.

It was heart and effort that carried Lighthouse to five wins, the most in program history.

Navarre’s Liam Kelly helped lead the way and reflected on the season before walking off the field for the final time.

“Its hard coming off the field with a loss that close. And being senior night, it’s a little heartbreaking,” Kelly said. “But I’m happy. We played our hearts out. Whether it be the refs’ calls, our calls, their calls, we executed with heart and passion and that’s all you could ask for.”

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