He saw the number on the scoreboard, and he didn’t care.
The Callaway Cavaliers were trailing 14-0 in Friday’s season opener against the LaGrange Grangers, and as time wound down in the fourth quarter, their chances of winning the game appeared slim.
As far as Callaway’s Eddie Culpepper was concerned, though, there was time left on the clock, and his team still had a chance.
“We didn’t have any doubt in our mind, even when we were down 14-0,” said Culpepper, who spent most of the game on the field as a running back and linebacker. “We have to keep fighting until that clock hits zero.”
Culpepper said that no-quit attitude is fostered during the grueling practices led by head coach Pete Wiggins that help prepare the team for Friday nights.
“Coach (Wiggins) told us to keep fighting,” Culpepper said. “Every day we face adversity. The key word is adversity, and he tells us that every day. We’re in the hot sun practicing, we’ll even be in the rain. He tells us to keep fighting, and that’s what we did.”
They certainly did.
The Cavaliers scored a pair of touchdowns in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to erase that deficit and tie the game at 14-14.
Callaway then made a big defensive stop in overtime on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line.
Needing a field goal or a touchdown on their overtime possession to win it, the Cavaliers got a 4-yard scoring run from quarterback Dre Martin to win 20-14 and complete the remarkable comeback.
“All we know is keep fighting,” Culpepper said. “Coach tells us to do what we have to do, and the outcome will be there. It was amazing. I love our Callaway family. I love it.”
It wasn’t a flawless performance by the Cavaliers, but they found a way to get it done, and that’s all that matters.
“I couldn’t be prouder of a group of kids,” Wiggins said. “They work so hard in practice every day, and we put them through hard times. And they handle it each day. To come out here and see it pay off after some frustrations was so big. For our kids to be down 14 points and come down and keep our composure, just says they’re a great group of winners. I’m just proud to be a part of them.”
Things finally began to turn in the Cavaliers’ favor when they got the ball following a punt at their own 31-yard line with 5:36 left in the fourth quarter.
The Cavaliers needed a spark, and they got it from all-state wide receiver Terry Godwin, who had been quiet most of the night.
Godwin caught a short pass from Martin, and he turned that into a 29-yard gainer.
That play came after Culpepper ripped off a 13-yard run to start the drive.
On first down from the LaGrange 27-yard line, the Cavaliers opened up the playbook.
Martin took the snap, and he pitched it back to wide receive Braylon Sanders, who then threw the ball toward the end zone where Godwin was waiting.
Godwin went up and snatched the ball away from the defender for the touchdown, and the Cavaliers were on the board.
“Coach (Matt) Napier had it in his hip pocket, and it worked,” Wiggins said of the scoring play.
Cameron Spinks put the extra-point attempt through the uprights, and LaGrange’s lead was down to 14-7 with 4:59 to play.
The Cavaliers still needed to make a defensive stop to have a chance, and after LaGrange quarterback Amad Ogletree ripped off a 44-yard run to the 20-yard line, it looked like the game might be over.
On a first-down play, though, the Cavaliers forced a fumble, and they recovered the ball at the 20-yard line with 2:44 to play.
The potential game-tying drive got off to a rocky start.
The first two plays lost yards, and the Cavaliers were facing a third-and-20 situation from the 10.
Martin, who was making his first start at quarterback, scrambled around, and he spotted senior Nick Woodyard on the left sideline.
Martin delivered a perfect pass, and Woodyard made the catch and just kept his feet in bounds.
The 20-yard completion gave the Cavaliers a first down, and they had life.
Woodyard said the play didn’t go as scripted, but he and Martin did a nice job of making an adjustment.
“The play backfired. It was going to the other side,” Woodyard said. “He just happened to see me. I put my hand up.”
Martin then completed a 12-yard pass to another senior, Michael Moss, for a first down.
Martin had a 14-yard run, and 15 yards were added on because of a penalty, and the Cavaliers had the ball at the LaGrange 31-yard line.
A 9-yard run by Martin, and a 14-yard completion from Martin to Cortney Laye put the ball on the LaGrange 6-yard line.
On first-and-goal, Culpepper’s number was called, and he bulled into the end zone from six yards out, and the Cavaliers were within one.
Callaway still needed the extra point to tie it, and Spinks’ kick was true, and it was tied at 14-14 with 21 seconds left.
LaGrange took a knee after accepting the kickoff, and it was on to overtime.
In high-school football, the overtime format is similar to the one used in college football.
Each team would get one possession from the 15-yard line, and LaGrange got the ball first in overtime.
The Grangers got a first down inside the Cavaliers’ 5-yard line, and after three runs by Mon Denson, they faced a fourth-and-goal situation from the 1-yard line.
Denson got the call again, but he was stopped just short of the goal line.
The Cavaliers took over at the 15 needing a field goal or a touchdown to win the game.
The possession began with a penalty that knocked the Cavaliers back to the 20, but Culpepper had runs of 12 and four yards to put the ball on the 4-yard line.
On the next play, Martin kept the ball and raced into the end zone to give the Cavaliers the dramatic win.
Martin said he knew he was going to find a way to score on the play.
“That was the only thing I had on my mind,” Martin said. “I had to win it for my team.”
Wiggins said the team’s veterans did an outstanding job of leading the way.
“It’s a great group of seniors,” Wiggins said. “What an awesome way to lead the football team. Those guys really carried (the team) on their shoulders when times got tough tonight. They kept believing in one another. That’s what it’s all about.”
It wasn’t a flawless performance.
Callaway’s offense hurt itself with four turnovers, and the Cavaliers also had a tough time getting things going against a determined LaGrange defense.
In a scoreless first half, the Cavaliers had three turnovers, and they had a failed fourth-down conversion in LaGrange territory.
Callaway didn’t trail at the half because its defense turned in a determined performance.
The Grangers moved the ball well in the first half, but they kept getting turned away.
Late in the half, Laye came up with an interception to thwart a LaGrange scoring chance.
The Cavaliers had another turnover in the third quarter that led to the Grangers’ first touchdown.
Callaway’s defense, which spent so much time on the field, seemed to be wearing down as LaGrange needed just five plays to go 43 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to make it a 14-0 game.
After a Callaway punt, LaGrange had the ball back with 7:56 left in the game, probably needing afew first downs to salt the game away.
If the Cavaliers were going to win the game, the defense was going to have to make some plays, and it did.
Callaway rose up and forced a three-and-out, and LaGrange was forced to punt.
The Cavaliers got the ball back, they scored a touchdown, and the comeback was on.
Callaway’s defense forced the big turnover on LaGrange’s next possession, and the Cavaliers then made the big defensive stop in overtime, setting up the winning touchdown.
From the performance of the defense, to the late-game heroics of the offense, to the clutch kicking of Spinks, to the countless huge individual performances, Martin said everyone on the team just kept fighting.
“We don’t quit. We never quit,” Martin said. “Until they turn off the lights, we never quit.”