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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Best Game of the Season

When it was all over and Calvary had finally vanquished its only true nemesis, I wanted to see more.

Behind some late-game heroics from Jake Booty, Sam Walker and James Michael Miller, the Cavaliers pulled out a 28-21 victory over Evangel that ranks among one of the finest prep football games I've ever seen. At the moment, I can only think of one that ranks with it: Vince Young's final high school game, a loss in the Texas Class 5A state semifinals.

The bad thing about some game stories is that they're written on tight deadlines, they're usually focused way too much on the game's biggest plays and there's hardly ever enough space to discuss a variety of storylines. Of course, I've sat through some games where I would have been better off copying down the box score. But Friday was not one of those times.

Here's a few things I just couldn't cram into an already long game story from Friday:

- I picked Evangel to win before the game because I thought the Eagles' size gave them an, uh, huge advantage over Calvary in the trenches. Not so. In fact, the upstart Cavaliers imposed their will over the Eagles down the stretch. A shining example was a 14-play, 74-yard drive in the third quarter that ended with Jake Booty's 9-yard touchdown run and tied the game at 14. Twelve of the plays on that pivotal series were runs.

- Sam Walker, a 5-foot-11, 163-pound senior, only touched the ball twice in this game but both times he came up big for the Cavs. On the second-to-last play of the third quarter, Walker picked off Dez Duron and returned the ball 57 yards to the Evangel 14. Seven plays later, Calvary took a 21-14 lead on Miller's 1-yard dive into the end zone on fourth-and-1. Then, of course, Walker scored the game-winning touchdown on a 22-yard reception with 16 seconds left.

- After what seemed to be a season of throwing short to CerDerrick Tyson, Duron and the Eagles finally opened up their playbook against Calvary. Duron threw deep a few times and thrice connected for long touchdowns that kept Evangel in the game. I've been somewhat critical of the Eagles' offense this season for its overreliance on Tyson and for forcing Duron to throw too deep in the pocket out of the shotgun formation. All of those things showed up in the loss to Calvary, as I figured it might when Evangel played a team with similar talent and coaching.

- It's amazing to me that Evangel has been so good for so long. Their district winning streak was ended at 89 games, dating back to a 70-20 loss at Plain Dealing on Nov. 2, 1990. To put that in perspective, Jake Booty was only about 18-months-old at the time. Regardless of what happened Friday, I don't think the Eagles are going anywhere for awhile.

- I hope the Cavs enjoyed their postgame party at Camp Bethany. They earned it. What a gutsy comeback. (And, yes, I sound a little like Peter King here).

- Few people could find fault with last night's game, one that was well-played (only five penalties total), well-attended (at least 6,500 fans were stuffed into Jerry Barker Stadium) and well-celebrated (both teams gathered at midfield for a postgame prayer despite the slugfest they had staged for 48 minutes). Call me selfish but I hope to see these teams again in New Orleans, this time with the Class 2A state title on the line.

- I've written more than enough about Jake Booty but I thought I'd close with this postgame quote from classy Evangel coach John Bachman: "He's a warrior, has a great bloodline and showed himself to be a champion tonight. He made plays when he had to make plays." Well said. Coach Bachman could have been saying the same about his guy, Dez Duron, even in defeat.


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