Injuries, Miscues Cost Calera in 35-27 Loss to Stanhope Elmore

By CHRIS REIN | Special to the Reporter

CALERA – It was a tale of two halves on a chilly Friday night at Ricky Cairns Memorial Stadium, as Calera (3-3, 1-2) jumped out to a 27-13 halftime lead, but couldn’t hold in the second half as injuries and botched punts let Stanhope Elmore (3-4, 3-1) put up 22 unanswered points for the win on Oct. 2.

“We ended up having an injury at quarterback, some injuries on the defensive side, lost five guys tonight, but I’m proud of our kids, proud of the way they played,” Calera head coach Trey Simpson said. “(It’s just) unfortunate. They gave a valiant effort, played incredibly hard defensively; they just came up short.”

Calera jumped out to an early 21-0 lead, as everything went the Eagles’ way in the opening quarter. Art Amos returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, but the Mustangs blocked the PAT attempt. After forcing a three-and-out, Tyler Nelson hit Jaydien Rutledge on a 64-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline, and Chris Cotton’s conversion made it 14-0 less than three minutes into the game.

A Stanhope Elmore miscue gave the Eagles a short field, as Fred Hurth recovered a fumble on a strip sack and returned it to the Mustang 20. From there, Nelson found Jevonte Melton on an 18-yard touchdown pass that went through the arms of a Mustang defender to make it 21-0 Calera early in the second quarter.

But the Mustangs fought their way back into the game, driving 64 yards for their first score, which came on an 11-yard touchdown run by Antonio Trone. After a botched Calera quick kick, Trone scored on another 11-yard run, with his line pushing the scrum over the goal line. A blocked PAT kept the Calera lead at 21-13.

A long kickoff return by Braden Harden on a pooch kick set the Eagles up at the Mustang 11, and three plays later Nelson found Justin Green on an 8-yard touchdown pass, but another blocked PAT made the score 27-13 at halftime.

But following the break, Nelson never re-entered the game, finishing 9-of-13 for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Instead, backup Jacob Sommers was pressured all night, before Calera finally found some success running Kobe Prentice in the wildcat.

But errors in the kicking game and a fumble gave the Mustangs three short fields, and they converted on all three opportunities. After another botched quick kick, Stanhope Elmore took over on the Calera 9, and Trone scored from 3 yards out.

Trone’s run on the 2-point conversion made it 27-21. A Calera fumble on the ensuing possession again gave the Mustangs the ball in Eagle territory, and a 33-yard run on a fake punt set up Trone’s fourth score of the night from 7 yards out, though a missed PAT left it tied at 27.

Calera attempted to punt on their next possession but a bad snap gave the Mustangs the ball on Calera’s 20-yard line. Quarterback Tre Killingsworth hit Chase Eddings on a crossing pattern over the middle, and Eddings broke a Calera tackle and ran it into the end zone. Trone’s 2-point run with 2:17 left in the third provided the 35-27 final margin.

Trone was the workhorse for the Mustangs’ one dimensional attack, rushing 39 times for 188 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Cotton rushed 16 times for only 24 yards for Calera, as the Stanhope-Elmore defense kept him bottled up all night.

After a bye next week, Stanhope Elmore will try to hold on to the third-place spot 6A Region 3 with a trip to Helena ahead of their rivalry matchup with Wetumpka.

Calera will try to get back into the playoff hunt when the Huskies come calling next Friday night, in a game that could decide the region’s final playoff team.