Seniors carry Chelsea to victory

Published 1:50 pm Friday, October 31, 2008

Ranked No. 8 to start the year in Class 5A, the Hornets had high hopes, as did others for them. But now, after a season of turnovers, penalties and missed opportunities, Chelsea players are putting the season behind them as they celebrate their final battle of the season.

The Hornets beat Calera, 35-34, in a wire-to-wire game Thursday, shutting down Eagles quarterback Brandon Wells on a 2-point conversion with :02 to play.

“As soon as I saw them come out in that formation they had in the first quarter, I knew it was going to be a sweep. I tried bumping outside as much as I could,” senior Morgan Williamson said.

That read opened the door for seniors Alex Miller and Tim Sumerel, who locked in on Wells for the game-winning tackle.

“They forgot to block me, so I just went and tackled the guy with the football,” Miller said.

While all of the seniors would have preferred to be gearing up for the playoffs next week, they also like the idea of ending their high school career as a winner.

“If you go to the playoffs, unless you win the state championship, you end the season with a loss., so we get to go home and end it on a win. I’ll never forget it,” senior quarterback Blake Yance said.

Williamson and Miller also agreed that it will be a special memory.

“Especially to win like this,” Miller said. “It wouldn’t have been as fun if they blew us out or we blew them out.”

The battle began with Calera getting on the board early in the first quarter with a 3-yard run by Erik Burrells. After a successful point-after kick, the Eagles led 7-0.

Chelsea evened the score, 7-7, on a 15-yard pass from Yance to John Calhoun and later took the lead after a Sumerel recovered a fumble late in the second quarter to put the Hornets in business at the Eagle 10. Three plays later, Yance went up the gut for a 3-yard touchdown to put Chelsea up, 13-7 after a missed extra point.

Calera gained a slim lead, 14-13, after a 65-yard run from Wells to open the second half, and later extended it, 21-13, with a 9-yard touchdown run by the quarterback, who finished with 148 yards on the ground and three scores.

But what followed on the ensuing drive, was one of the surprise plays of the game. On the first play of the drive, Freshman quarterback Ben Craft found senior wide out Blake Woo on a 49-yard touchdown to pull Chelsea within two points, 21-19.

“Usually I have a few drops during a game, but I wanted to step it up with this being my last game,” Woo said.

Garrett Salter cut through the Calera defense for the 2-point conversion to tie the game and give the Hornets new life with 2:38 to play in the third.

Salter went on to score on a 76-yard dash down the home sideline for a 76-yard touchdown to take the lead. The answer to the touchdown was a 60-yard kickoff return by Kendall Cox would have been a touchdown, had Woo not made a last-chance tackle at the Hornets’ 30.

Calera still managed to punch the ball into the end zone with a 15-yard pass from Wells to Chris Majors. Erick Tinajero’s kick was good to even the score, 28-28, with 9:12 to go.

Chelsea called for the same Salter run play on the first play of its ensuing possession, but Maleki Harris stripped the ball from the Chelsea back and recovered it at the Hornets’ 38. However, the defense stepped up its game from that moment on, beginning with a sack by Sumerel that helped kill the drive. From that moment on, the Hornets’ defense displayed one of its best performances of the season.

After the Hornets turned the ball over on downs, Williamson stepped up with a first-down sack that again killed an Eagles’ drive. The Eagles punted and Salter found the home sideline on the next play for a 66-yard touchdown. The two long runs helped him finish with 193 yards in the game.

“Early in the season I wasn’t making my cuts and working hard on them, but tonight it hit me and I started running good,” Salter said.

None of his running would have been possible without the help two-way lineman Miller, who opened up both touchdowns with the final block.

“He’s our best lineman. He’s my best friend on the team,” Salter said. “He’s a lot of heart.”

Down, 35-28, Calera began to execute the two-minute drill, marching the ball down field with steady passing from Wells. Miller helped lengthen the drive with a sack and batted pass for the Hornets, but Calera still found the end zone on a 8-yard run up the gut from Wells.

That’s when the Hornet defense found victory by shutting the door to the end zone for the 2-point try.

With the loss, Calera is in position to win the Class 4A, Region 3 title on a tiebreaker. The result of the tie will be determined Friday night after Bibb County and Jemison play their games. Eagles’ head coach Mac Thompson said he tried a few new things in the game Thursday to help prepare his team for the playoffs.

“We wanted to try some stuff before we go into the playoffs, some heavy stuff. We had a short week. We didn’t have time to put it in all the stuff we wanted to. Chelsea don’t have a good record, but they’ve got a pretty good football team. We expected them to play hard and give us a good game,” Thompson said.

The Hornets finish the season 4-6.