There are some football games where a coach has to throw caution to the wind and take chances he might not usually take. Friday night's Region 7-AAAAA showdown between Calhoun and Blessed Trinity was one of those.
Calhoun coach Clay Stephenson knew the best way to defeat the host Titans was to limit the amount of touches for star tailback Justice Haynes. Leading 20-14 to start the second half, Stephenson called for an onside kick. The gamble worked, leading to a quick touchdown and a two-score lead, points the team needed late in the 32-27 win.
"That was the biggest play of the game," Stephenson said after his team improved to 5-1 and 2-0 in league play after the battle of top-10 state-ranked teams. "We had to steal a possession after they scored right before the half, and it's something we had worked on all week and it paid off tonight. I'm so proud of the players. They stepped up to the challenge."
Calhoun never trailed and limited Haynes to only one big play, an 86-yard touchdown run in the second half. Haynes, who rushed for over 300 yards in last year's Blessed Trinity win, still managed more than 200 yards and four touchdowns Friday, but the Jackets had an offensive answer each time.
Calhoun led 20-7 after scoring on three consecutive first-half drives — quarterback Christian Lewis with a 1-yard sneak, and Gage Leonard runs of 20 and 7 yards — but the Titans (4-3, 1-1) scored just before halftime on Haynes' 6-yard run.
Blessed Trinity was set to receive the second-half kickoff, but things changed when Cameron Dodd recovered the onside kick. Three plays later, Lewis connected with Cole Speer for a 27-yard touchdown and a 26-14 lead.
The lead was 32-27 after Haynes' final score of the night on a 3-yard run with 1:50 remaining, and the Titans got the ball back with 1:18 left after forcing a three-and-out. The drive managed only one first down as defensive end Lex Walraven twice forced Blessed Trinity quarterback J.C. French into quick throws.
"What a total team effort," Stephenson exclaimed. "We liked the plan going in and the players executed it right to the last whistle."
Christian Heritage 38, Walker 0: The Lions (2-4) won their Region 7-A private opener as Solomon Locke scored on touchdown passes from Christian Thomas of 67 and 65 yards. Younger brother Jeffson Locke started the scoring on a blocked punt return, with Eli Thomason making it 14-0 with a 29-yard run.
Adairsville 20, Coahulla Creek 10: Eli Agnew had a pair of short touchdown runs early, but the Colts (4-3, 2-3 Region 6-AAA) scored the next 10 points, the final seven on a Payton Gordon 1-yard run, before Chris Roper returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for Adairsville (5-1, 3-1) to push the Tigers' lead to 10 just before halftime.
Alexander 52, Dalton 22: The Catamounts led 15-3 early after Brady Pendley's 27-yard touchdown pass to Karim Page and Journey Boston's 8-yard run, but Alexander's T.J. Foster took over with 319 yards and three touchdowns. Pendley ended with 194 yards and two touchdowns — also adding a touchdown pass to Luke Blanchard.
Chattooga 40, Coosa 3: Senior running back Lashaun Lester had touchdown runs of 14, 5 and 62 yards to lead the Indians (4-2, 3-0 Region 7-AA) to the road win. Nic Hester opened the scoring with a 14-yard run, with Jaylon Johnson adding a 48-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Brody Mobbs.
Heritage 19, Central-Carroll 14: The Generals improved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in Region 7-AAAA as quarterback Kaden Swope rushed for three touchdowns and the Generals pitched a second-half shutout.
North Murray 49, Southeast Whitfield 14: Ethan Dempsey had three touchdown runs and Seth Griffin had scoring passes of 60 and 76 yards to Jayden Rice while adding a 27-yard run to the end zone as the Mountaineers improved to 4-2. Jordan Trevino and Brady Ensley scored for the Raiders in the nonregion game.
Dade County 20, Model 17 (OT): The Wolverines (5-1, 2-0 Region 7-AA) won as Cayden Cooper had 116 rushing yards and two touchdowns, the final one in overtime to win it from 3 yards out. Dade limited Model to 131 total yards.
Sonoraville 48, Murray County 7: First-year starting quarterback Jaxon Pate passed for four touchdowns and added a 75-yard punt return for a score to lead the Phoenix (4-2, 2-2 in 6-AAA). Pate connected twice with Brant Bryant (48, 68 yards), who also had a 1-yard touchdown run.
Other area scores:
Cedartown 57, Northwest Whitfield 23
Pickens 45, Ridgeland 8
Rockmart 56, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe 0
Pepperell 39, Gordon Central 14