LAGRANGE – There was no catching Cedric Maynard.
Late in the first half of Thursday night’s game against the Harris County Tigers, the Callaway Cavaliers found themselves trailing by three points after giving up a long touchdown pass.
When the Cavaliers got the ball back, they had the ball inside their 20-yard line with a little more than a minute remaining.
Turns out, that was more than enough time to find the end zone thanks to Maynard, Callaway’s electrifying running back.
On a first-down play, Maynard took a handoff from quarterback Braylon Sanders, and he made it to the left sideline and left Harris County’s defenders in his wake on the way to touchdown run of nearly 90 yards.
That touchdown gave the Cavaliers a 20-17 lead at the half, and they dominated the action in the final two quarters on the way to an impressive 33-17 victory over a team they’d lost to the previous two years.
With the offensive line doing a tremendous job of opening holes, Maynard had more than 250 yards rushing with four touchdowns, and Sanders threw a scoring pass to Dre Martin.
Callaway’s defense, which gave up some big plays in the first half, overwhelmed Harris County in the second half.
It was a complete performance for the Cavaliers (3-1), who have won three in a row since a season-opening loss to LaGrange.
“I’m extremely proud of our kids,” Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins said. ” From the first game, we’ve gotten so much better. We’ve decreased our mistakes, and turnovers, and the biggest thing is the kids believe in what we do, and they believe in each other. They worked really hard at practice this week. Harris County’s got a good football team. That’s a big school. I think our kids showed a lot of heart tonight.”
It helped that the Cavaliers had Maynard.
Maynard, a senior, had nine runs of at least 10 yards, and he had a pair of 5-yard scoring runs to go along with touchdown runs of 84 and 14 yards.
“He leaves it all on the field,” Wiggins said of Maynard.
Maynard was quick to credit his offensive line, which gave him the holes to run through.
“The line did good,” Maynard said. “They told me to run the ball, and they’ve got my back. They blocked great for me.”
It’s an offensive line that has undergone some changes this season because of injuries, and against Harris County the line was made up of a freshman, two sophomores, a junior and a senior.
Sophomore Lawrence Thompson was making his first career start at center, and he was joined on the line by fellow sophomore John Curtis, freshman Keiondre Jones, junior Thomas Hodge and senior Cortney Laye, who Wiggins said “anchors the offensive line each week.”
“It’s one of the youngest offensive lines we’ve had, and those guys are really opening up holes,” Wiggins added. “I’m really proud of them.”
Harris County’s offense had some success in the first half, especially late in the second quarter when it scored both of its touchdowns.
Harris County wasn’t able to do much offensively in the second half, though.
Callaway dominated the line of scrimmage, with defensive lineman JT Wortham seemingly spending as much time in the backfield as Harris County’s quarterback.
“Our defense stood tall in the second half,” Wiggins said. “I was really proud of those guys.”
It was the second straight game where Callaway’s defense didn’t allow a point in the final two quarters.
Against Heard County, Callaway trailed 17-7 at the half before rallying for a 20-17 victory.
Dylan Johnson, who played well from his safety position on Thursday, said everyone on defense is contributing.
“It’s not a single player sport. You’ve got to play together as a team in order to win and we did,”Johnson said.
As for the second-half performances the past two games, Johnson said the players are listening closely to defensive coordinator Dusty Hubbard.
“That’s our mindset is to listen to coach Hub and do what he has to say,” Johnson said. “He’ll lead us in the right direction.”
Callaway struck first in the game, going 52 yards on its opening possession for the touchdown.
Sanders had a 21-yard keeper to get the ball to the 14-yard line.
Maynard did the rest with a 9-yard run followed by a 5-yard touchdown run, and Noah Stephens made the extra point to give the home team an early 7-0 lead.
Harris County got a field goal on its ensuing possession to make it a 7-3 game, and that’s the way it remained until the frantic final few minutes of the first half.
After Harris County went 84 yards in three plays for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:31 left in the half, Callaway came right back with a touchdown of its own.
Tyrek Frazier set the Cavaliers up near midfield with a long kickoff return, and it took them five plays to find the end zone, with Maynard scoring on a 14-yard run.
Sanders found Martin for back-to-back completions of eight and 20 yards to set up Maynard’s scoring run.
Stephens made the extra point to give his team a 14-10 lead.
It took Harris County one play to reclaim the lead.
On first down, Harris County got a 55-yard touchdown pass after the ball was tipped by a Callaway defender and fell right into the hands of a wide receiver.
Undeterred, Callaway took over deep in its own territory with barely a minute left on the clock.
Maynard let his his offensive teammates know how confident he was.
“I told them, we’re going to run and get a touchdown, and go the locker room (with the lead),” Maynard said.
He was right.
Maynard crossed the goal line with 48 seconds left in the half after completing his 84-yard touchdown run, and even though the extra-point attempt was blocked, Callaway had a 20-17 lead, which was the score at the break.
Harris County made it to Callaway’s 27-yard line on the first possession of the third quarter before a fourth-down play failed.
The Cavaliers, continuing the momentum they built at the close of the first half, took over and marched 73 yards in five plays for a touchdown.
Maynard had runs of 12, 11 and 18 yards to begin the dive, and two plays after a holding penalty, Sanders found a wide-open Martin for a 33-yard touchdown.
Stephens converted the extra point, and Callaway led 27-17 with 5:07 to play in the third quarter.
Harris County again made it into Callaway territory, but it was once again turned away on fourth down, with Johnson and Mike Freeman making a tackle in the backfield on a completed pass.
The Cavaliers had to punt when they got the ball back, but with Wortham making two tackles in the backfield, the Tigers were unable to get a first down and they had to give the ball right back.
With 7:42 left in the game, the Cavaliers took over at their own 35-yard line following a punt, and they embarked on a game-clinching touchdown drive.
Facing fourth-and-five from the Harris Couny 20-yard line, Sanders pitched the ball to Maynard on an option play, and he picked up 15 yards.
On the next play, Maynard scored from five yards out to cap the scoring.
Callaway will look to make it four in a row when it takes on Troup next Friday.
The Cavaliers will then take a week off before beginning their Region 5-AAA schedule on Oct. 8 against Cedartown.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports