Cavaliers win defensive slug-fest
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
When the ball was in the air, it looked like a touchdown.
The LaGrange Grangers were trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter of Friday’s cross-town showdown with the Callaway Cavaliers, but they were driving.
LaGrange had the ball on the Callaway 25-yard line when quarterback Charles Crawford threw a pass toward Koby Patton, who appeared to be open in the end zone.
Callaway’s Markus Morman showed off his closing speed, though, and he came up with what in essence was the game-clinching interception.
Callaway hung on for the 14-0 victory to improve to 2-0 and make it three consecutive wins over LaGrange.
For Morman, it was his second consecutive week coming through with a clutch interception.
Last week, Morman returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 35-21 win over Opelika.
In Friday’s game, Morman’s pick possibly saved a touchdown that would have cut Callaway’s lead in half and would have made the final minutes really interesting.
“As soon as the quarterback threw it to the receiver, I just read the play, and I saw the ball in the air, and I just picked it,” Morman said.
Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said it’s an example of a player getting it done at practice and applying what he’s learned in the game.
“Markus has come a long way,” Wiggins said. “He works hard at practice. That’s two weeks in a row with a critical interception that helped determine the ballgame.”
Callaway’s defense was stingy all game.
While the Grangers were more effectively offensively than they were in a season-opening 10-3 loss to Heard County, they were unable to put any points on the board.
Callaway’s offense did just enough, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter.
Callaway quarterback Jacob Freeman threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Antinez Blount with 10:51 left in the first half.
With a little more than a minute before halftime, Freeman’s 8-yard touchdown run and the extra point by Hunter Williamson gave Callaway a 14-0 lead.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” Wiggins said. “We found a way to get it done. Our defense played extremely well. Offensively, we made a lot of mistakes, and we were able to overcome them. We have to clean that up. But, anytime you play a rival, and you come away with a win, it’s a good feeling.”
LaGrange made Callaway work for it.
As was the case in the season opener against Heard County, LaGrange’s defense was phenomenal.
Against Heard and Callaway, LaGrange’s defense didn’t allow a point in the second half.
While the Grangers lost both of those games, head coach Chuck Gibbs is encouraged with what he’s seen.
“We played two of probably the top four teams on our schedule,” Gibbs said. “They’re non-region games, and we’re one or two plays away from them being tight football games. There’s never moral victories, but at the end of the day, we feel there are a lot of positives to take away. If we can keep getting a little bit better, there aren’t going to be a whole lot of teams that want to draw us in November.”
The Cavaliers drew first blood moments into the second quarter.
Freeman rolled out to his left and threw the ball to a wide-open Blount in the end zone for the touchdown, and Williamson’s extra point gave Callaway the 7-0 lead.
Following a LaGrange punt, the Cavaliers got the ball back at their own 33-yard line, and they went 67 yards in 10 plays for the touchdown.
The Cavaliers thought they’d scored when Freeman hit Dre Potts for a 52-yard touchdown, but the play was disallowed because of a penalty.
Freeman then hit Nathan Sapp for a 23-yard completion, and the Cavaliers scored five plays later on the 8-yard quarterback keeper.
In the second half, it was all defense.
The Cavaliers were driving on the opening possession of the second half when Jakoby Smith came up with an interception to give the Grangers the ball.
LaGrange’s defense continued to come through with stops, but the offense couldn’t find the end zone.
The Grangers’ best scoring opportunity came in the fourth quarter when they hit on a handful fo big plays.
Crawford hooked up with Jordan Ogletree for an 18-yard completion, and he completed a 26-yard pass to Patton.
When Laracco Glaze ripped off a 16-yard run, the Grangers had the ball on the Cavaliers’ 20-yard line.
Two plays later, though, Morman’s interception with less than seven minutes remaining ended that threat and gave Callaway the ball at its own 12-yard line.
By that point, Callaway was having to play without Freeman, who was hit hard early in the fourth quarter and was down on the field for a few minutes.
Freeman was eventually removed from the field on a stretcher, although a few minutes later he was walking back from the ambulance to be with his teammates.
Demetrius Coleman completed an 8-yard pass to Blount for a first down to eat up a few more minutes off the clock.
Callaway ended up punting, and LaGrange took over at its own 43-yard line with 2:55 to play.
A sack by Tre Heard on first down knocked the Grangers back, and after two modest gains they were facing a fourth-and-long situation.
Nathan Sapp got into the backfield and brought Crawford down, ending LaGrange’s hopes.
The Cavaliers ran a couple of kneel-down plays and the clock ran out.
Callaway and LaGrange will both be on the road next Friday.
Callaway will be in Atlanta to play Cross Keys with kickoff set for 5:15 p.m., and LaGrange will visit Hampton High as it looks to end a 17-game losing streak.
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