Heart-breaker for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
A fantastic season came to a heart-breaking conclusion for the Callaway Cavaliers.
Callaway shrugged off a 20-0 first-half deficit to take a nine-point lead in the third quarter, but it was Brooks County rallying for a 39-35 victory on Friday night at Callaway Stadium in the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs.
Everything seemed to be going the Cavaliers’ way when they took a 35-26 lead on a Demetrius Coleman touchdown pass to Antinez Blount in the third quarter.
The Trojans answered with a quick touchdown, though, and they scored again with 8:14 to play to reclaim the lead.
The Cavaliers had the ball in the closing moments with a chance to win it with a touchdown, and they were inside the Trojans’ 10-yard line when a fourth-down play failed.
The Trojans took possession with 2:36 to play, and they got a first down and were able to run out the clock with a pair of kneel-down plays.
The Cavaliers have been in the state semifinals four times since 2013, and they’ve come up short each time.
A year ago, Callaway had a chance late to score a game-winning touchdown against Rockmart, but it lost 28-22.
Flash forward a year and the Cavaliers again found themselves driving late with an opportunity to win it, but once again they were unable to put the ball in the end zone, denying them a spot in the state-title game.
“Right now, I’m really proud of our seniors, I’m proud of their leadership, I’m proud of their determination, and how they’ve represented our football team and our school,” said Pete Wiggins, Callaway’s head coach. “They’ve got so much invested it, and these kids are hurting.”
The game was marked by wild swings of momentum.
Brooks County could seemingly do no wrong in building a 20-0 lead, but Callaway fought back and cut its deficit to 26-21 at the half.
The Cavaliers continued their surge in the third quarter and scored two touchdowns to take the lead, but in the end it was the Trojans landing the final blow to earn their spot in Atlanta for the state-championship game.
“We knew coming into it they had a great football team,” Wiggins said. “We knew it would be a fourth-quarter game. We just didn’t make some plays down the stretch that we needed to make to win the ballgame. But our kids fought back from a big deficit, and it’s a great testimony to the character of our football team.”
Early on, it was all Brooks County.
The Trojans scored a touchdown, got an onside kick and then scored again to take a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game.
Another Brooks County touchdown moments into the second quarter made it a 20-0 game, and Callaway was in trouble.
The Cavaliers, in desperate need of a momentum-turning play, got it in the form of a 70-yar touchdown run by senior running back Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby.
Blake Eubanks made the first of his five extra points, and Callaway trailed 20-7 with 5:43 to play in the first half.
Back came the Trojans with a quick touchdown, putting the Cavaliers in a 26-7 hole with 4:52 remaining in the first half.
The Cavaliers answered with a touchdown of their own, with Bigsby powering his way into the end zone from one yard out to cap a 60-yard drive.
With 3:19 left in the first half, Brooks County’s lead was 26-14.
Brooks County was stopped on its ensuing possession, and Callaway took over at its own 15-yard line with a little more than a minute to play.
Jymere Jones made a catch to put the ball in Brooks County territory, and with 14 seconds left in the half, Coleman hooked up with Markus Morman for a 41-yard touchdown.
Callaway, which trailed by 20 points earlier in the quarter, was within five points heading to the halftime break.
The Cavaliers got the ball first in the third quarter, and they quickly marched down the field for the go-ahead score, with Jacob Freeman catching a perfectly-thrown pass from Coleman for a 24-yard touchdown.
Brooks County was forced to punt on its first possession of the half, and Callaway took over at its own 20-yard line.
Bigsby ripped off a 38-yard run to put the ball on the Brooks County 42-yard line, and three plays later, Coleman found Antinez Blount for a 29-yard touchdown, and Callaway was ahead 35-26 with 3:42 left in the third quarter.
The Trojans responded with a long touchdown pass to make it a 35-33 game, yet another swing of momentum in the back-and-forth game.
The Cavaliers kept pushing, and Bigsby’s 26-yard run put the ball on the Brooks 21-yard line.
The drive eventually stalled, though, and the Cavaliers turned the ball over on downs after an incomplete pass on fourth down early in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans promptly drove 87 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, with Omari Arnold throwing a 5-yard scoring pass to James Huewitt with 8:14 to play, putting the Cavaliers in a 39-35 hole following an unsuccessful two-point attempt.
The Cavaliers, behind for the first time since the early stages of the second half, threatened to reclaim the lead.
Bigsby got the final drive started with a 19-yard run, and the Cavaliers kept advancing until the found themselves on the Trojans’ 7-yard line facing another fourth-down play.
An incomplete pass gave the ball back to the Trojans, who picked up the game-clinching first down.
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