Calera gets experience in new offense during spring game

By BRANDON SUMRALL | Special to the Reporter

CALERA – Coaches and fans alike will agree that spring time football games don’t mean a lot, but for the Chilton County Tigers and the Calera Eagles, this year’s game between the two schools on Friday, May 17, afforded each program a glimpse at the work needed this summer, as a 14-7 game in favor of the Tigers saw some good and bad from both sides.

“I am looking forward to our guys getting back out this summer and working hard and having a little pride about it,” Calera head coach Andrew Zow said after the game. E”ven though this was a spring game and we played varsity as well as a lot of JV guys, it is all about effort, attitude, and a little bit of toughness.”

Penalties, turnovers and missed assignments were issues both teams battled throughout the night and will go over during the summer months leading up to next season. However, with bad times, there were several bright moments had by each program.

Each school’s varsity team got the action started and having won the opening coin toss, the Eagles chose to take a look at their offense first.

Christopher Cotton-Taylor proved to be the Calera workhorse all night and picked up the game’s first first down on the second play of the game thanks to an 11-yard scamper that moved Calera out to the 37-yard line.

However, a pair of short runs and a deep sack saw the drive come to an end on a punt.

After an Eagles punt, the Chilton County fans in attendance got their first glimpse of what the Tigers’ offense will look like this season, and they didn’t disappoint.

Setting up at their own 45, Devonta Robinson picked up the Tigers’ first first down on a pair of runs, while quarterback Shikeem Laister broke lose for 22 yards to move Chilton down inside the Calera red zone. Three plays later and Laister found pay dirt on a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Tigers ahead 7-0 after the PAT.

The Eagles’ ensuing possession looked poised to put Calera in position to tie the game after a long run by Noah Williams and a 41-yard connection between quarterback Edwin Karanja and Dylan Killingsworth.

However, a fourth-and-three play at the Chilton County 21-yard line saw the Tigers stuff a rushing attempt, as Calera turned the ball over on downs.

A quick three-and-out by the Tigers gave the ball quickly back to Calera which allowed the Eagles to pick up a pair of first downs on runs by Cotton-Taylor and Kobe Prentice.

The Eagles again moved down near the Chilton red zone before another deep sack by the Chilton defense brought the drive to an end while also ending the first half.

The first possessions of the second half belonged to the starters and saw Tigers come up short of the end zone while the Eagles would put together a 55-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 7-7.

A 17-yard connection between Karanja and Blake Shoddie moved Calera out near midfield where an 11-yard run by Prentice moved the ball down near the red zone.

Two plays later, a 28-yard touchdown pass from Karanja to Quindarius Crews led to the game-tying touchdown early in the third quarter.

Ensuing possessions by both squads saw no change in the score, while a turnover by the Eagles on their possession set the Chilton County offense up in good shape.

One play later and quarterback Sam Smith connected with Jakobi Albert for a 40-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 14-7 midway through the third quarter.

Turnovers and scoreless possessions were the theme of the remaining 18 minutes as both squads gave their respective coaching staff plenty to go over during the long summer months.

“We have a ton to work on,” Zow said. “Every phase of the game we have got to work on. Everyone has got to get better. What we just did was not Calera football. We have to get this thing rolling in the right direction. It is going to take some time, we put in a new offense because of the personnel we have, so it’s going to take some time for the players to gel. Defensively I thought we played with a little more effort, offensively we didn’t, so we have a ways to go.”

Karanja ended the game with a 7-for-11 performance passing with 115 yards and a touchdown, while Cotton-Taylor led the Calera ground game with 52 yards on eight carries. With some of those names ready for a breakout season, as well as the return of stars like defensive lineman Jayson Jones and Crews at receiver, the Eagles have plenty to get excited about this season if they grow as a team.