Shephard makes impact for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Callaway Cavaliers were scuffling.
Last week’s state-playoff game against Douglass-Atlanta couldn’t have started much worse for Callaway, which found itself trailing 14-0 in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers needed someone to step up and make a play, to help turn momentum around.
Jalin Shephard, Callaway’s play-making junior, was the man for the job.
After the Astros’ second touchdown, the ensuing kickoff went to the right side of the field in Shephard’s direction.
Shephard fielded the ball at the 30-yard line, went to his right and saw an opening and took off down the field.
Moments later, Shephard was celebrating a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that did indeed provide the spark the team so sorely needed.
After falling behind by two touchdowns, Callaway outscored Douglass-Atlanta 41-6 the rest of the way to win 41-20 and reach the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs.
Callaway may very well have turned things around even without Shephard’s return, but it was no doubt a critical play for a team that needed something positive to happen.
“I had to turn the game around some way or another, and I took that one back,” Shephard said. “I’m glad I did.”
That game-changing play was part of a huge night for Shephard, a defensive back who has been one of Callaway’s top players for two seasons.
On defense, Shephard had one interception (and another pick was negated because of a penalty) to go along with six tackles and a pass break-up.
Shephard also blocked a punt in the third quarter, and he did a nice job himself as Callaway’s punter.
In the third quarter when the game was still very much in doubt, Shephard had two solid punts, including one that pinned Douglass inside its own 20-yard line.
Shephard is also a wide receiver for Callaway, and he has three touchdown catches this season.
“He can do a lot of things,” said Dusty Hubbard, Callaway’s defensive coordinator.
After Shephard’s kickoff return, Callaway scored a pair of offensive touchdowns to take a 20-14 lead at the half.
Callaway took its first lead of the game when Demetrius Coleman threw an 88-yard touchdown pass to Jacob Freeman with less than a minute left in the opening half.
“We took the momentum back leading into the half, and we just had to keep it going,” Shephard said. “We couldn’t have any more breakdowns, and the defense had to their job, and it was all a team effort.”
ANOTHER BIG PLAY: A common theme throughout the season has been Callaway’s ability to make big plays in the passing game, and one of the top play-makers has been senior wide receiver Jacob Freeman.
Freeman came into last week’s playoff game against Douglass-Atlanta averaging nearly 30 yards per catch with 10 touchdowns.
It was no surprise, then, to see Freeman celebrating a touchdown catch that nearly covered the length of the field.
Late in the first half, the Cavaliers were clinging to a one-point lead and they were backed up deep in their own territory.
Rather than go conservative and attempt to run out the clock, Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier called for a pass play.
Quarterback Demetrius Coleman rolled to his right and looked back to his left to see Freeman sprinting down the field.
Coleman dropped a perfect pass into the waiting arms of Freeman, who raced the final 40 yards for an 88-yard touchdown.
It was the 11th touchdown catch of the season for Freeman, and he actually had one longer than 88 yards earlier in the season.
Freeman had a 98-yard touchdown catch from Coleman late in the first quarter that helped propel Callaway to a 56-10 win over LaGrange.
IMPERFECT START: The Callaway offense has been humming along most of the season.
There is one thing that can slow down any offense, though, and that’s turnovers.
The turnover bug hit the Cavaliers in a big way in last week’s playoff game against the Douglass-Astros.
The Cavaliers had four turnovers, and remarkably, three of them came on the offense’s first three plays from scrimmage.
Callaway had two lost fumbles (one of which was returned for a touchdown) and an interception to begin the game as Douglass-Atlanta built a 14-0 lead.
The Cavaliers lost another fumble on their first possession of the second half that.
The Cavaliers, despite the turnovers, beat the Astros 41-20 to reach the Class AA state semifinals.
It helped that, outside of the fumble that was returned for a touchdown, none of the other turnovers led to points.
Following the first two turnovers of the game Callaway’s defense stiffened and didn’t allow a point.
Douglass, which scored on its opening possession of the game, led 14-0 after the fumble return and a two-point conversion.
“In the first quarter when we turned it over a few times, we did a good job of keeping it close,” said Dusty Hubbard, Callaway’s defensive coordinator. “They went down and scored and made it 6-0, and we made two stops. They scooped and scored, but it was just 14-0.”
After the second-half turnover, Douglass went three-and-out and punted.