By JOEL McNEECE
The Calhoun City Wildcats completed their perfect regular season with a 19-13 victory over the Bruce Trojans Thursday night.
"This was exactly what I was expecting," Calhoun City Coach Perry Liles said. Bruce is a class program who always plays Calhoun City hard. They never quit. What I was proud of was our kids never quit. We had some things not go our way tonight. We handled it. I'm proud of this team."
Calhoun City, ranked second in the state in Class 2A, appeared ready to blow the game wide open with the first possession of the game. The Wildcats marched 60 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 1-yard run by QB J.R. Jennings. The extra point missed for an early 6-0 lead.
The Wildcats added to that lead midway through the second quarter with an 81-yard touchdown march. The touchdown came on a 10-yard run by Avery Hill, who finished with 87 yards rushing on the night. A two-point conversion failed to keep the score 12-0 Wildcats.
That score held until the start of the second quarter when the Wildcats took the opening possession and in only four plays increased their lead. A 12-yard pass from Demarius Howard to Aaron Thompson and a 26-yard run by Lavarious Varnado set up the score. Varnado had the honors with a 2-yard touchdown run. Raheem Roberson added the extra point for a 19-0 lead.
The Trojans came alive when they recovered the ensuing squib kickoff at midfield. Two long runs by Zay Armstrong carried them inside the 10-yard line. Demetrius Evans then put Bruce on the scoreboard with an 8-yard run.
A long punt return by Shaq Bush put the Trojans at the Wildcat 33-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Armstrong, who finished with 94 yards rushing in the game, eventually scored the touchdown on a 5-yard run. Gray Tedford's extra point pulled the Trojans to within 19-13 with 3:42 left to play.
Bruce got the ball back with just over a minute to play, but the Wildcat defense held to preserve the victory, their fourth straight in the series (Bruce 31, Calhoun City 21 and two ties).
"This was a typical Bruce-Calhoun City game," Bruce Coach James Ray said after the game. "Calhoun City is ranked as one of the best teams in the state and deservedly so. We hung in there with them tonight. I think we grew up a lot tonight. We needed that kind of game, but we've got to win. I'm proud of our guys. They came out the second half and played one of the best games of the year."
The Trojans will go on the road to face East Webster next week in the opening round of the playoffs.
The unbeaten Wildcats will be at home against either Hamilton or JZ George.
"It's really exciting," Liles said of his Wildcats finishing the regular season unbeaten. "I've been blessed to coach this team. I couldn't be more proud of this team."