On a night where seniors showed up big, a sophomore made the play of the game at the end.
Calvary Day’s Austin Byrd came crashing through an Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy offensive line that had been the driving force behind a 21-point comeback, and stopped a two-point conversion run by ELCA quarterback Jordan Long in overtime to preserve a hard-fought 35-34 win for the Cavaliers and send them to their first championship game in school history.
Calvary Day (11-2), located in Savannah, had taken the lead on the opening overtime possession on a 1-yard run by junior Robert Heyward, which came after a 14-yard completion from senior quarterback Michael Peterson to senior Jordan Walker.
ELCA (11-1), the defending Class A private school champion, scored on its overtime possession when Long rolled to his right, scanned the field and threw to Cameron Stewart in the back of the end zone. Chargers head coach Jonathan Gess elected to go for the win, but Byrd knifed through and snuffed out Long’s attempt to find a seam up the middle on a quarterback keeper.
The win is the 11th in a row for the Cavaliers, who lost their first two games of the season. The loss for ELCA was its first defeat at home to a Class A opponent since Landmark Christian edged the Chargers in the 2011 semifinals, 14-7.
Byrd’s tackle foiled a furious rally by ELCA, which trailed 21-0 with less than two minutes left in the first half.
Calvary Day drove 81 yards on its first possession to go ahead 7-0. Peterson hit tight end Milan Richards (committed to Clemson) with an 8-yard touchdown pass to cap the march, which was aided by a 50-yard pass to Jordan Walker and three ELCA penalties.
The Cavaliers defense held firm, and on their next possession Peterson’s passing and power runs mixed in by junior Robert Heyward led to Calvary Day’s second score – a 38-yard pass to Khaliq Hughes – and a 14-0 lead.
The ELCA offense sputtered again on its third drive, and with Chargers star linebacker Josh Shockley out with a possible broken arm, Calvary Day wasted little time scoring. The Cavaliers drove 62 yards in five plays, and Peterson tossed his third touchdown pass, an 8-yarder to Walker for a 21-0 lead.
ELCA got its offense going on its next drive, driving 50 yards inside the Calvary Day 10. But the Cavaliers’ defense held and took over on downs at their 1-yard line with less than three minutes left before halftime.
Calvary Day stayed aggressive on offense. From the Cavaliers’ 24-yard line, Peterson hit Richards over the middle for a big gain, but the ball popped out of his hands and into the arms of linebacker Shawn Bartlett, who returned it to the Cavaliers’ 43-yard line.
Four play later, Long scored from 2-yards out with 32 seconds left in the half to trim the deficit to 21-7.
Calvary Day 7 14 0 7 7 35
ELCA 0 7 13 8 6 34
C – Milan Richards 8 pass from Michael Peterson (Dan Hatch kick)
C – Khaliq Hughes 38 pass from Peterson (Hatch good)
C – Jordan Walker 8 pass from Peterson (Hatch good)
E – Jordan Long 2 run (Isaac Barber kick)
E – Long 6 run (Barber kick)
E – Lane Timpson 8 run (kick failed)
C – Walker 7 pass from Peterson (Hatch kick)
E – Davis Carrandi 73 pass from Long (Long run)
C – Robert Heyward 1 run (Hatch kick)
E – Cameron Stewart 5 pass from Long (run failed)