CALHOUN CITY – It was midway through the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils trailing by six against Calhoun City on the road, when Coach Embry huddled up with his offense.
“Guys, this is what we have been talking about all week,” Embry told his players. “This is what I have been telling you,” the coach stressed as his team lined up 63 yards from the end zone with the game on the line.
A throw from C.J. Telford to Hayden Eubanks moved the chains 10 yards and the crowd came to their feet. Telford then launched a pass that was tipped by Jon Surrette, bounced through the hands of a Wildcat defender and scooped up by Sasa Freeman for a 38-yard gain in what was easily the biggest play of the contest. Now the Blue Devils were in the red zone and in business as Que Carothers pounded in the last 15 yards on three consecutive plays to knot the score at 20. Surrette punched it through the uprights and the Blue Devils were ahead by a precious point – 21 to 20 – with less than five minutes remaining.
“I told them if we playing Calhoun City at Calhoun City, it is going to take four quarters to win,” Embry explained about that meeting with his offense before the big score. “I told them we are not going to get an easy win.”
Now it was the Blue Devil defense that was under pressure. The Wildcats had moved the ball easily in their previous possession to put six points on the score board. Starting their final drive of the game on the 30 yard-line, the Blue Devil defensive line stood strong on a handoff that only went for a yard. Calhoun City quarterback Jackson Lee launched a long ball on second down that went over the head of a wide-open receiver. It was the Wildcats who were feeling the pressure in front of a packed home crowd. A delay of game pushed them back five yards and Lee, who had responded under pressure for most of the game, was unable to connect with his receiver on third down.
Deep in their own territory, the Wildcats were facing fourth and long and had little choice but to punt and hope their defense could force a three-and-out.
Now it was the Blue Devils opportunity to close the deal – move the chains a couple of times and time would expire. And they were able to wind down the clock, but not before what was a likely record setting five third down plays following a confusing series of plays that included off-setting penalties, clock issues and who knows what else. Finally the Blue Devils were able to kneel in victory formation for the final play and win.
Water Valley started the scoring with a five yard touchdown gain by Que Carothers for the only points in the first quarter. A botched snap kept Surrette from connecting on the PAT.
Calhoun City scored twice in the second quarter. They were able to convert a two-point conversion on their first touchdown to go ahead 8 – 6. Their second touchdown came on a 30 yard-pass, but the two-point conversion was no good and the halftime score was 14 – 6.
Telford was able to score on a one-yard quarterback sneak to score early in the third quarter. A pass from Telford to Marion Morgan put two more points on the scoreboard to tie the game at 14.
Calhoun City was next to strike in the start of the fourth quarter, but a mishandled snap kept them from finding the end zone on the two-point conversion to put the score at 20 – 14. The Blue Devils scored next on the biggest drive of the game to go ahead 21 – 20.
“It has got to be a record,” Embry said when asked about the five first-down plays to end the game. “We ran the clock out on penalties. But I told all the guys and coaches it was a huge win for a lot of reasons. You have to prove you can go into a hostile environment.”
The win puts Water Valley 3 -1 during a strong early season schedule that also includes victories against Independence and Northpoint Christian.
The Blue Devils will travel to Winona Friday night in what is expected to be one of the toughest games on the entire nine-game schedule.
“They are a very talented, well-coached team,” Embry said about Friday night’s opposition. “I think they are ranked second in the state and very deserving of it. They look like a state championship team.”
“Our non-regional schedule is really challenging. We knew it would be. But it makes you a better team,” Embry added.