Long Cane earns title shot

Published 12:29 pm Saturday, October 28, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry


LAGRANGE – They’ve got a chance for a repeat.

The Long Cane Middle School Cougars blanked Callaway Middle 24-0 on Thursday afternoon to advance to the league championship game.

Long Cane’s opponent will be Valley, which beat Gardner-Newman in the other semifinal game.

Valley is the higher seed, so it will host the championship game on Thursday at Ram Stadium.

A year ago, it was Long Cane beating Callaway to claim the league title, and those teams square off in the semifinals this season.

Long Cane finished the regular season as the number two seed, while Callaway was seeded third.

Long Cane had an 8-0 lead thanks to a kickoff return for a touchdown by Robert Harris and a two-point conversion, and it added two more scores in the second half to win going away.

The Cougars started the game with a bang.

On the opening kickoff, Harris caught the ball and used his sprinter’s speed to go the distance for the touchdown.

Cory Clark ran the ball in on the two-point conversion attempt, and Long Cane led 8-0.

Clark had a pair of touchdown runs in the fourth quarter as Long Cane salted the game away.

Many of the players who helped Long Cane win the title a year ago are now in high school, but the team has continued to thrive.

“We had a lot of kids last year that weren’t eligible as seventh-graders, and they’re eligible this year which makes a big impact,” Long Cane coach Torre Pike said. “We’ve got some kids that came out and decided to play. That definitely helped. This is the deepest team we’ve had in a long time.”

Callaway enjoyed a successful season despite enduring some key injuries, including two players who suffered broken legs.

In Thursday’s game, Callaway was even further short-handed since a number of players were on the Georgia Studies Tour.

Still, coach Kerry Woodard was pleased with the progress the players made on the field, and off it.

“They got better every week,” Woodard said. “They fought and fought. And they got better as people. I had a couple get in trouble a little bit, and they grew up. And I told them what they are as a person is a lot more important than what they are as an athlete.”

In Thursday’s game, Callaway hung in there most of the way.

In the first half, it was still a one-possessions game until Clark’s touchdown run gave Long Cane a 14-0 lead.

Quarterback Tyson Duncan ran the ball in on the two-point attempt, and Long Cane led 16-0 with 5:30 to play.

Right before Clark’s touchdown, Duncan’s keeper on fourth down gave the Cougars a first down inside the 10-yard line.

Pike said Duncan is a critical piece of the puzzle for the Long Cane offense.

“Tyson is what makes our offense go, just because he’s so composed and collected,” Pike said. “He doesn’t get rattled easily. He throws a pretty ball. He does everything right. He’s the real deal. I think he’s got a chance to be pretty special.”

After Clark’s touchdown, Pike called for an onside kick, and it was executed to perfection, with Long Cane recovering the ball.

After a long run by Adrian Tucker, Long Cane had a first down inside the Callaway 10-yard line.

On fourth down, it was Clark scoring on a 4-yard run to pad the lead.

Tucker and Clark have been an unstoppable running-back duo all season, and they were extremely effective against Callaway.

“It’s the best middle-school running-back combination you can have,” Pike said. “(Tucker) can do anything, and Cory’s a power guy.”

After Clark’s second touchdown, Duncan completed the two-point pass to Daylen Teasley, and the Cougars were up 24-0 with 1:53 to play.

Long Cane’s defense made one final stop, and that was that.