Cavaliers edge out Columbia in instant classic at Callaway Stadium

Published 11:21 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

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Callaway fans let out a sigh of relief as a hail mary from Columbia fell harmlessly to the turf at Callaway Stadium as the final buzzer rang out. The Cavaliers were able to win an instant classic on Friday night 33-29.

“I feel like we continued to play fast and physically no matter what they did,” Callaway coach Pete Wiggins said. “We executed at a high level and gave relentless effort for four quarters, and when you do that you are going to have a chance to win football games.”

Friday was a night where the Cavaliers had to rely on their veteran players. Callaway had to come from behind three different times as the team trailed 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14 before eventually taking its first lead of the game in the second half.

Wiggins relied on his senior leaders on Friday.

“I’m so proud of our seniors, the Jojo Shumans, the Cam Tuckers, the DeShun Colemans, the Avery Bartletts, the Greyson Batchelors, the Zai Harts and the list goes on,” Wiggins said. “The way they led our team tonight was special.”

Shuman, a starting offensive lineman, showed some guts battling through an injury for the offensive line.

“He is tough as nails,” Wiggins said.

He was not the only resilient leader for the Cavalier. Starting quarterback and leader DeShun Coleman put together a sensational performance to lead Callaway to victory. 

“Another great job of DeShun leading our football team,” Wiggins said. “Big players make big plays in big games, and he did that again tonight.

“He continues to grow on the field and as a leader.”

The senior threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a spectacular show for the home crowd. 

“I was just taking my reads and what the defense was giving me,” Coleman said. “Really I have to give big ups to the offensive line because they kept me upright and opened up holes for me on designed runs.”

Coleman’s big day started when he hit Camren Gunn on a short pass play with 9:32 left in the first half after the Eagles possessed the ball for almost 10 minutes of the opening quarter.

Coleman struck again with just 18 seconds left in the half as he connected with Koryon Hoard for a 3-yard touchdown.

It was a show of moxie for the senior, who then proceeded to lead a big drive to start the second half that ended with Coleman running the ball into the end zone from three yards out.

Coleman connected with Treyonn Tucker on a 20-yard touchdown connection to put Callaway up 33-21 that proved to be the winning play of the game.

The Eagles answered quickly with a drive of their own, cutting the Cavalier lead to just four points with 8:30 left in the game, but the home team was able to hold on for the win.

Defense was a big reason why the team held on after the offense failed to convert a fourth and one at the Columbia 2-yard line with under two minutes to go in the game. 

Regardless of the outcome, Wiggins would choose the aggressive route in those circumstances every time.

“We were thinking that they were moving the ball really well, so we wanted to get the first down and run the clock out and score to end the game,” Wiggins said. “If we don’t get it they had to go the length of the field, so we felt good about our chances of going for it.”

In a back-and-forth game, the Cavaliers had to also rely on swiss army knife Cam Tucker, who made plays all over the field, including a 4-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14 with 3:38 left in the first half. But his biggest play of the night was a sack on fourth down with 1:35 left in the game as the Cavs led 27-21.

The entire offense was clicking on Friday night.

“Everything was going right for us on offense,” Coleman said. “We started out with establishing the run and we didn’t really have to go to the air until they keyed in and started stopping that.

“We had a lot of success with both the run and pass.”

The win now puts Callaway in the driver’s seat for the region title, but with so much of the season left the Cavaliers are focusing on one week at a time.

Callaway (3-2) is now 2-0 in region play. The Cavaliers will have two weeks off after their game against Greenville was canceled. Callaway will return to the gridiron on Oct. 13 away to region opponent Towers.