September 8, 2013 2:47:16 AM
CALEDONIA -- Football is game of momentum. The team that has the momentum usually carries the day.
In a game where teams are slugging each other with time-consuming, momentum-building drives, a perfectly timed big play can create a wave of momentum the opposing team can't overcome.
Friday night's game between Class 4A Caledonia High School and Class 1A Smithville High provided a perfect case study in the importance of a perfectly timed big play. In this case, two perfectly timed big plays by Caledonia senior running back Quavis Betts made the difference in a 35-21 victory against the Seminoles.
Early on, it appeared Smithville would be the team making the big plays. An interception of Caledonia quarterback Ben Marchbanks on the second play set the Seminoles up at the Confederates' 19-yard line. Two plays later, Seminole senior running back Tyler Hood scored on an 11-yard zone-read play to give Smithville a 6-0 lead. That's when the game settled into a battle of long, physical, time-consuming drives by each team. Caledonia scored on both of their drives to go ahead 14-6, while Smithville saw its first long drive stall deep in Caledonia territory.
The first big play for Caledonia occurred in the waning moments of the first half after the Seminoles' second time-consuming drive. Smithville had just tied the game at 14 with a 12-play, 79-yard drive that used almost six minutes of the second quarter clock. It also overcame a penalty on the two-point play to convert on an outstanding catch and run by Hood.
Caledonia took over on the ensuing drive at its 40 with 30.9 seconds left before halftime. Marchbanks calmly hit Betts with a 17-yard strike on the first play to put the ball at the Smithville 43. After an incompletion, the senior duo hooked up again on a 43-yard touchdown with just 2.5 seconds left in the half.
Seeing the call work to perfection, Caledonia coach Andy Crotwell couldn't help but crack a big smile as his kicking team hustled onto the field.
"The play right before the half was a wheel route, and we felt pretty good about it, the way we had noticed their corners were playing on film, and we worked on that quiet a bit this week," Crotwell said. "Ben made a great throw, and Quavis made a great catch and run. It definitely changed the entire mind-set of our team going into the half and gave us a huge lift going into the second half."
The touchdown seemed to deflate the Seminoles, who were playing without a couple of starters and were noticeably smaller than the Confederates.
"That play, then the play right after half, definitely took the wind out of our guys," Smithville coach Bubba Tacker said. "We came in believing we could play with them even though we were a couple of guys short and with the size advantage they had, but you can't give up big plays like that and expect to win a game like this. We had a new face playing that position because of injury, and they saw it and took advantage of it. We aren't making excuses. It was just a good job of picking that out on their part and calling it at the right time."
The second big play came with 9 minutes, 16 seconds to play in the third quarter. Caledonia held Smithville to a three and out to start the half and took over at its 19. On the first play, Betts took the toss sweep and raced around right end 81 yards to push the lead to 28-14. Crotwell and his staff noticed the Seminoles weren't adjusting to a pre-snap movement of his offense, and again, made the right call and the players executed.
"We noticed in the first half they were not adjusting their drop end when we gave them the slot look, so the numbers were set up for the sweep, and we knew it would probably only work once because they (Smithville) do such a great job adjusting," Crotwell said. "We got the look we needed and Quavis did a great job of running behind his blocking. Those two plays, the one right before the half, and then the run right after the half, were what made the difference for us."
Caledonia (2-1) will play Lowndes County rival New Hope (0-2) next week in a non-division game, while Smithville (2-1) will travel to Thrasher (2-0).