Calera advances past Sylacauga in exciting one point game

By Chris Megginson / For the Reporter

CALERA – A late Eagles touchdown and missed Sylacauga field goal helped Calera escape with a 35-34 win over Sylacauga in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. The win comes one week after the Eagles fell at Sylacauga, 42-28, in the regular season finale.

As time expired, Sylacauga’s kicker pushed a 44-yard field goal wide right, advancing the Eagles to the next round. The Aggies returned a kickoff to the Eagles’ 46 to help set up the field goal try after Calera regained its lead with 39 seconds to play.

“That field goal was nerve wracking to see the ball traveling to the goalpost and not really know how to take it,” Calera head coach Andrew Zow said. “You think your season could be over, but you get a chance to fight another day.”

The two teams combined for 956 yards of offense on a total of 115 plays in the battle of rushing attacks.

Sylacauga racked up yards immediately, scoring on a 61-yard run on the first play of the game. Two plays later, Eagles’ QB Cornelius Brown hit Yatil Gant for a 52-yard touchdown pass. Zach Ford’s PAT tied it, 7-7. Brown also had 6-yard TD pass to Woodson to make it 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Brown scrambled 48 yards for the Eagles’ third TD. Sylacauga closed the half with a 15-yard touchdown on fourth and 5 with 35 seconds left in the half to make it 21-14 Calera.

Both teams were scoreless in the third quarter. Ford, who finished the night 5-for-5 on PATs in his first game back from injury, missed a 42-yard field goal try in the third.

Sylacauga evened the score, 21-21, with a 9-yard run to open the fourth quarter, but Calera answered on the next possession with a DeCorean Mickens 30-yard touchdown run. Another big run (68 yards) by the Aggies tied it up again, 28-28, with 6:26 to play.

Calera fumbled the kickoff, giving the Aggies the ball at the 30. Sylacauga capitalized, scoring on a 28-yard run with five minutes to play, but missed the Aggies missed the PAT for a 34-28 lead.

“I think everyone takes special teams for granted. We put the pressure on them to go hard on that extra point they had,” Zow said. “We went hard and maybe caused a bit of a distraction that they missed.”

The Eagles drove the length of the field on the ensuing possession and capped the drive with a 4-yard, go-ahead touchdown run by Brown to hold a one-point lead, 35-34.

“Our offensive line and our backs did an awesome job staying poised. We knew we could move the ball, but at the same time we need to execute,” Zow said. “We just stayed resilient and tried to finish the game like we wanted to.”

Brown finished the night with 58 yards rushing and two touchdowns on seven carries. He completed 12-of-20 passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns.

“He really came out and played really well or us,” Zow said. “Our offense really played well at times and Brown did a pretty good job managing the team when he needed to and he made some clutch plays when he needed to.”

Zow credits his offensive line for the Eagles to be able to move the ball, collecting 277 of the Eagles’ 450 total yards on the ground, led by Alex Dozier’s 127 yards and Mickens’ 92 yards. Gant had two catches for 67 yards. Sylacauga rushed for 458 yards and had 506 total yards.

Dyson Edwards and Jermaine Ross each had eight solo tackles to lead Calera. The duo had three and two assisted tackles, respectively.

Calera (8-3) will travel to undefeated Carroll High School in Ozark next week. Carroll defeated Citronelle, 35-21, in the first round.

“We’re undefeated,” Zow said of the playoffs. “They’ve met all challenges and hopefully we can go in and make it a game. It’s going to be a good week to bounce back. We get another chance to play the game that we love … Next week will be a challenge of course, and hopefully our guys will respond in a positive way.”