The B.E.S.T Academy Eagles gave it their best shot, but when the dust settled, the Callaway Cavaliers had the win, moving them one step closer to a second consecutive Region 4-AAA championship.
The Eagles made life extremely difficult for the Cavaliers Thursday night at Callaway Stadium, and the outcome wasn’t secured until a failed fourth-down conversion attempt with 2:49 remaining.
The Cavaliers picked up a couple of first downs after that, and they walked away with a 28-18 victory.
Callaway (7-1 overall) moved to 5-0 in the region, and it can sew up the region’s top seed with a road win over Douglass next week in Atlanta.
The Cavaliers finish the regular season at Rockmart on Nov. 8, and they’ll likely be back home for a first-round playoff game.
The Eagles were 3-7 a year ago, but they’re a much better team this year, and they came into Thursday’s game with four wins already under their belt.
The Cavaliers took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but the blowout victory that many expected never came to fruition.
“We knew coming into the game they were much-improved from last year,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “They had all their kids back.”
In the end, though, the Cavaliers won the game, and that’s all that matters.
“I was proud of our kids for handling adversity,” Wiggins said. “We made mistakes. We turned the ball over, had a bunch of penalties. But we fought through it, and we won. You’re going to have games like this. I was proud of our kids for fighting through the adversity.”
Early on, it looked like the game was going to be more of the same for the Cavaliers, who blew out each of their first four region opponents.
After forcing the Eagles to punt on their first possession, the Cavaliers drove 45 yards for the touchdown.
Eddie Culpepper had a 12-yard run to get things going, and Tez Parks completed a 23-yard pass to Terry Godwin.
Later on the drive, Callaway found itself facing a fourth-and-goal situation from the 4-yard line, and Parks bulled his way into the end zone for the touchdown.
Chase Freeman knocked through the first of his four extra points on the night, and Callaway led 7-0 with 5:20 left in the opening quarter.
The Eagles’ next possession ended with a Dante Lindsey interception, and the Cavaliers had the ball at their own 43-yard line.
Culpepper had a couple of long runs to get the ball into B.E.S.T. territory, and Devon Rosser finished things off with a 34-yard touchdown run.
Freeman’s kick gave the Cavaliers a 14-0 lead with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
Needing a spark, the Eagles got it when Deshawn Waller returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, and when the extra point was blocked, Callaway’s lead was down to 14-6.
The Cavaliers’ next possession started with a bang, with Culpepper ripping off runs of 20 and 13 yards, and when Parks had a run of 13 yards, the ball was on the Eagles’ 25-yard line.
The Cavaliers went backward on their next three plays, though, and they were forced to punt.
B.E.S.T Academy then put together a touchdown drive, and the Cavaliers’ lead was down to two points after the two-point conversion attempt failed.
Suddenly it was the Cavaliers in need of a big play to regain the momentum, and they got it a few moments later when speedy sophomore Cedric Maynard returned the kickoff 75 yards for the touchdown.
Freeman’s kick was true, and Callaway led 21-12 with 1:42 remaining in the half.
The Cavaliers then got a big play on defense, with Culpepper coming up with an interception, and they took a 21-12 lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Eagles continued to make life uncomfortable for the Cavaliers.
The Eagles scored on a fourth-and-11 pass play from the Callaway 35-yard line late in the third quarter, and it was a 21-18 game with 1:32 showing on the clock.
The Cavaliers responded with an impressive scoring drive of their own.
They got the ball at their own 45-yard line after the kickoff, and a long run by Rosser put the ball deep in Eagles’ territory.
On third-and-10, Parks took matters into his own hands with a 23-yard touchdown run, and Callaway was up 28-18 with 9:11 remaining.
The Eagles’ next possession ended with a failed fourth-down conversion at midfield, and the Cavaliers were hoping to finally put the game away.
Instead, a fumble gave the ball right back to the Eagles, who marched to the Callaway 27-yard line before their hopes were finally vanquished with an unsuccessful fourth-down conversion attempt.
The Cavaliers got first-down runs from Parks and Culpepper, and that was that.
“You always find something to work on,” Wiggins said. “Obviously on Sunday when we watch the film, we’ll go back to work, and get better at what we do.”
Before the game, the team’s 14 seniors were recognized.
Those players have been a part of a lot of special moments at Callaway, including a region championship and a pair of wins in the state playoffs.
“It’s a really special group of kids,” Wiggins said. “It’s 14 young men I’m really proud of. They’ve really provided great leadership for our program.”