Dramatic comeback for Cavaliers
FRANKLIN – Everything was going wrong.
The Callaway Cavaliers ventured to Heard County on Friday night hoping to make it three in a row in the Pulpwood Classic, but for most of the first half, it looked like it was going to be the home team’s night.
Late in the first half, the Braves had a 17-0 lead, and they had the ball deep in Callaway territory as they looked to expand their lead.
The Cavaliers needed something positive to happen, something to help turn the momentum in their favor.
That’s exactly what happened.
The Braves lost a fumble, and the Cavaliers recovered at their own 7-yard line.
Callaway then put together a 93-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a Braylon Sanders touchdown run, and Noah Stephens’ extra point made it a 17-7 game, which was the score at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Cavaliers produced a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take the lead, and they held on for a riveting 20-17 victory.
“I’m really proud for the kids,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said Saturday morning during his weekly show on WLAG. “Down 17-0, and the kids kept fighting, kept believing in one another and what we do. All those reps in practice and in the weight room and the camps that you go do, and you see a group of kids believe in one another, and fight back, and ultimately win the football game, it’s really special. You talk about making memories all the time to the kids and how they’ll remember high-school football from now on, and last night was one of those memories.”
As the fourth quarter began, Callaway was still staring at a 10-point deficit.
The Braves had a great chance to add to their lead when they made it inside the Callaway 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
The Braves were pushed back, though, and they eventually attempted a 40-yard field goal that was blocked.
Callaway’s offense then produced a big play, with Sanders connecting with JT Wortham for a 61-yard touchdown pass, and Stephens made the extra point to cut Heard County’s lead to 17-14.
It was a short completion to Wortham, and he showed of his speed by making it all the way to the end zone.
“Once he got the ball in his hands, he just left everybody,” Wiggins said.
Now with all the momentum, the Cavaliers got the ball back when Devin Brock came through with an interception.
Moments later, Cedric Maynard had a 17-yard touchdown run, and after an unsuccessful extra-point attempt, Callaway’s lead was 20-17.
The Braves still had a chance.
Down by three, all they needed was a field goal to tie it, or a touchdown to take the lead.
Instead, an interception gave the ball back to the Cavaliers.
Callaway was able to get a few first downs and run out the clock to secure the dramatic, come-from-behind victory.
According to Heard County head coach Tim Barron, it was a night of missed opportunities, including the lost chance late in the first half.
“What a night of opportunities that we blew,” Barron told the Heard Citizen. “Granted they fought and their kids kept battling but when you have a chance to go up 24-0 before the half you have got to stick in right there. Then the penalties on important drives, and not sticking it in during the second half, we have got to change that mindset and mentality and be able to put somebody away. We had opportunities to get away with a win tonight and didn’t do it.”
On the other side of the equation was a Callaway team that, even when everything was going wrong, never stopped believing.
“Anytime you come from a 17-0 deficit, it says a lot about the character of the kids, and I’m really proud of them,” Wiggins said.
For most of the first half, the home fans had plenty to cheer about.
Collin Nutt gave the Braves a 3-0 lead with a 40-yard field goal, and the lead grew to 10-0 on a 3-yard scoring run by Jonta Gray with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
Maynard gave the Cavaliers the ball at midfield following a long kickoff return, but they couldn’t do anything offensively, and when the Braves got the ball back they pushed the lead to 17-0 on a 3-yard scoring run from Dayvin Troy.
It got worse for the Cavaliers when they lost a fumble on their next possession, and the Braves were in business again.
Instead of adding to its lead, though, Heard County fumbled inside the 10-yard line.
Maynard got the Cavaliers out of the shadow of their own end zone with a carry to the 36-yard line, and Sanders completed a pass to Tyrek Frazier for another first down.
The Cavaliers eventually made it to the 3-yard line, and Sanders did the rest, taking it in for his fifth touchdown run of the season.
After a scoreless third quarter, the Braves seemed to catch a break when Gray intercepted a tipped ball to give his team the ball.
That possession ended with the blocked field-goal attempt, though, and the Cavaliers got the ball back and took control of the game.
“We came out in the second half, and I felt our intensity level was higher, and we played with a better effort, and we ran to the ball, and it was a physical game, and we were able to put some plays together on both sides of the ball, and it gave us an opportunity to score and win the football game,” Wiggins said.
One of the players who gave Callaway a chance to win was Brock, who had two key interceptions.
“He doesn’t come off the field much,” Wiggins said. “I was really proud of Devin, his work ethic, and leadership he had.”
Maynard, a senior running back, had another strong night for the Cavaliers, and Sanders continued to settle in as he adjusts to playing quarterback after being a wide receiver a year ago.
“Each week he gets a little bit more comfortable in the pocket, and learning the offense, and just the flow of the game,” Wiggins said. “Quarterback is a tough position to play, and I just feel like each week he gets more comfortable. He’s throwing the ball well.”
Wiggins also credited the offensive line, led by senior Cortney Laye, for its strong play.
Callaway’s defense, after giving up the 17 points in the first half, stiffened and threw a shutout the rest of the way.
Wiggins said the defensive line that included Wortham, Keegan Ramsey, Keegan Woods and Rashawn Lovelace had a big night, as did Dre Martin at linebacker and Dylan Johnson at safety.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports