Cavaliers stay perfect with road win

Published 2:10 pm Saturday, September 16, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

THOMASTON – Jonathan Leonard put a dramatic exclamation point on a hard-earned victory for the Callaway Cavaliers.

Leonard, the Cavaliers’ outstanding senior linebacker, returned an interception for a touchdown as time expired as Callaway beat Upson-Lee 40-20 to improve to 4-0.

The outcome had already been decided when Upson-Lee’s quarterback got a pass away with moments remaining.

Leonard made a one-handed interception, and he raced about 70 yards for the touchdown.

“I promised my dad an interception this game, so I had to get one,” said Leonard, who had a monster night that included a sack and forced fumble in the third quarter.

With a convoy of blockers around him, Leonard made it to the end zone.

“I hoped I would (score),” Leonard said. “I got exhausted halfway, but I knew I had to keep pushing.”

It was a night of big plays for the Cavaliers.

Callaway had six touchdowns, and four of those scores covered at least 30 yards.

Jacob Freeman had touchdown catches of 50 yards and 66 yards, one from quarterback Kedrick Ramsey, and the other from Qua Hines.

DJ Atkins added a 30-yard touchdown run, and Hines and Ramsey had scoring runs of 14 and 11 yards, respectively.

Upson-Lee made its share of big plays as well, but the night belonged to Callaway, which has now won 23 consecutive regular-season games.

“Upson-Lee’s got a great football team, and sometimes you’ve got to win a ballgame ugly, and I felt like we did that,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. “And I tell you, our kids fought right until the end against a really good football team. Their defense is really stout, and their offense looked good tonight. So again I was really proud of our boys for fighting throughout the game.”

The Cavaliers started quickly.

On Upson-Lee’s first play from scrimmage, DQ Wilkerson had an interception to give Callaway the ball at midfield.

On the next play, Ramsey dropped the ball into the hands of a wide-open Freeman for a 50-yard touchdown, and Noah Stephens made the extra point to give Callaway a 7-0 lead.

Upson-Lee answered with a touchdown, and after a missed extra point, Callaway led 7-6 with 7:37 left in the first quarter.

Callaway responded with an 80-yard scoring drive capped by a 14-yard touchdown run by Hines, and Stephens’ extra point made it a 14-6 game with 2:40 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Cavaliers went 50 yards for a touchdown with Ramsey’s 11-yard keeper capping the drive.

Stephens made the extra point, and Callaway led 21-6, which was the score at the half.

The Cavaliers appeared poised to add to their lead early in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers were on the 2-yard line when they fumbled the ball into the end zone.

The ball rolled out of bounds, and the Knights took over at their own 20.

Leonard forced a fumble to give the ball back to the Cavaliers, but they couldn’t convert that turnover into points, and a blocked punt gave the Knights the ball near midfield.

On the next play, a 45-yard touchdown pass and the extra point cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 21-13 with 5:54 left in the third quarter.

After an exchange of punts, Callaway went 61 yards for the score, with Atkins beating Upson-Lee’s defense for a 30-yard touchdown run.

With 11:49 left in the game, Callaway led 27-13.

The Knights needed less than three minutes to drive for a touchdown of their own, and Callaway led 27-20 with nine minutes remaining.

It took the Cavaliers one play to regain their 14-point cushion.

Ramsey threw a backward pass to Hines, and he spotted Freeman downfield with no one within 20 yards of him.

The throw was on target, and Freeman made the catch and raced to the end zone for the 66-yard touchdown.

With the Stephens extra point, Callaway led 34-20 with 8:40 to play.

That’s the way it remained until Hines’ pick six to end it.

“We had mistakes early, and throughout the game, but we didn’t let it derail us,” Wiggins said. “They gained some momentum in the second half, but we kept fighting, kept our heads up and the effort was there all night.”

Callaway will host Harris County on Thursday.