LAGRANGE, Ga. – Callaway’s sudden-change plays were more than enough to keep St. Pius X off guard Friday night, when the Cavaliers beat the Golden Lions 35-21 to advance to the state Class AAA semifinals for the first time.
Senior quarterbaclk Tez Parks rushed for 128 yards on just 11 carries, and running back Eddie Culpepper had 143 yards and two touchdowns as the Cavaliers (12-1) beat the Lions (9-4) at their own game – by running the ball.
The Golden Lions scored first, on a 39-yard field goal by senior Thomas O’Leary, on the game’s first possession, but the Cavaliers carried play from that point forward. Parks scored on an 18-yard run off a fumbled shotgun snap to give Callaway the lead for good.
Each team scored a touchdown on what added up to three consecutive possessions to start the second half, but after Callaway went into intermission with a 14-6 lead, the Cavaliers’ back-to-back, two-play scoring drives took the wind out of the Golden Lions’ sails.
Callaway linebacker Dre Martin added a 42-yard interception return in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
“We practice fast and that pays off for us in game time,” said Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins. “These guys have worked so hard all year to get where we are, and I’m proud of these young men for their dedication.”
St. Pius rushed 55 times for 285 yards, and added 111 passing yards mostly late, but the Cavs were more effective running the ball. They had 321 rushing yards on 31 carries, including several big plays.
Callaway responded with strength after the first St. Pius score, as Parks scored on an 18-yard, busted-play run off a fumbled snap to give the Cavaliers the lead for good, at 7-3, with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers held on defense a couple times, and then took a 14-3 lead when running back Terry Godwin scored on a 4-yard run with 8:24 left in the first half. The key to that drive, was Godwin’s 58-yard run to the 5.
St. Pius pulled withing 14-6 as time expired in the first half, on a 22-yard field goal by O’Leary that many Callaway fans clearly believed did not get off before time expired. The key to that drive was an end zone interception by St. Pius defensive back Nick Ruffin with 4:56 left in the half on what was an ill-advised throw by Parks.
Callaway went quickly about leaving little doubt about who was in control in the second half.
St. Pius tried an onsides kick to start the second half, and nearly recovered, but the Cavs came up with the ball.
Parks scored on a 47-yard run on the second play of the second half, and after St. Pius closed the margin to 21-14 with a 3-yard run by quarterback Joey Connors, the Cavs struck quickly again.
Culpepper scored on a 59-yard run on Callaway’s next possession for a a 28-14 lead on just the second play of that drive.
St. Pius, as usual, led in time of possession with a margin of 31:26 to 16:34, but the Cavs made their plays count more.
Martin stepped in front of a Connors pass and returned it 42 yards for a score with 3:34 left in the game to cement matters for the Cavaliers, giving them a 35-14 lead.
“They control the ball, and run a lot of clock. In the first half, I’m guessing we only had 15 plays but we took advantage of them,” Wiggins said. “In the second half, we made some big plays that obviously put points on the board.”
St. Pius X – 3 3 8 7 – 21
Callaway – 7 7 14 7 – 35
SPX – Thomas O’Leary 39 field goal
Callaway – Tez Parks 18 run (Hunter Milliman kick)
Callaway – Terry Godwin 43 run (Milliman kick)
SPX – Michael O’Leary 22 field goal
Callaway – Parks 47 run (Milliman kick)
SPX – Joey Connors 3 run (Chris Wegener pass from Connors)
Callaway – Eddie Culpepper 59 run (Milliman kick)
Callaway – Dre Martin 42 interception return (Milliman kick)
SPX – Nick Ruffin 23 run (O’Leary kick)