September 22, 2013 1:14:19 AM
CALEDONIA -- "Give me three and I will beat you!"
These words were first uttered by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach George Allen in reference to the importance of winning the turnover battle.
The Caledonia High School football team found out Friday night just how important not winning the turnover battle can be, as it lost fumbles on three-straight possessions in the first half of its non-division game against East Webster.
The Class 1A Wolverines converted two of those fumbles into touchdowns, which ultimately proved to be the difference in a 25-13 victory against the Class 4A Confederates. The game was played in a steady rain that got heavier in the second half.
"Games like this, with the conditions, are games where the winner and loser is determined most of the time by who does a better job of protecting the ball, and we put it on the ground several times in a row there and they took advantage and established momentum, and it kind of became a situation where one mistake led to another," Caledonia coach Andy Crotwell said. "Those types of things are things we have to learn to fight through. I am very proud of how our kids continued to fight, especially our defense, after those things happened to us."
The Confederates and Wolverines traded touchdowns to open the game. Senior quarterback Ben Marchbanks was the workhorse for the Confederates, carrying eight times for 57 yards, including the 5-yard touchdown run.
East Webster returned serve with a quick 41 yard drive set up by a 40-yard kickoff return by senior running back Marques Reives. A personal foul on the Confederates tacked on an additional 15 yards. A 5-yard run by sophomore running back John Wofford Williams left the score knotted at 6-6 with 4 minutes, 47 seconds left to play in the quarter.
That's when the fumbles began.
Caledonia's first fumble gave East Webster a short field at the Confederates' 34-yard line. The Wolverines only needed three plays to score, as junior running back Deangelo Liggins made a beautiful, weaving 22-yard run through the defense for the touchdown. The failed two-point try gave the Wolverines with a 12-6 lead.
Caledonia senior all-purpose back Quavis Betts electrified the home crowd with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. James Longmire's PAT gave the Confederates a 13-12 lead with 1:09 to go in the quarter.
The second Caledonia fumble came after the Confederates held the Wolverines and forced a punt. The Wolverines recovered at the Caledonia 26. East Webster needed seven plays to score on a 1 yard quarterback sneak by sophomore Jack Wilson. The failed two-point try left the Wolverines with an 18-13 advantage with 3:35 to play in the half.
The Confederates fumbled again on the first play following the kickoff. The defense kept East Webster out of the end zone as the half ran out with the Wolverines on the Confederates' 8-yard line.
The rain, which started before kickoff, grew steadily harder, but Crotwell downplayed the significance of the elements on his team's misfortunes.
"When you plan all week with little chance of rain in the forecast and then it rains like it did, especially in the second half, you can pretty much throw the game plan out the window," Crotwell said. "We were not able to throw at all, and we weren't able to use the (shot)gun because of the weather, but we can't use that as an excuse, though, because both teams had to play in it, and they took advantage of us putting the ball on the ground and made the short field we gave them work in their favor, so you have to give them all the credit."
East Webster took advantage of a 70-yard kickoff return by sophomore Chase Keller to make it 25-13 with 7:54 left in the third quarter. The Wolverines needed seven plays after the return before Liggins scored on a 1-yard run. The extra point provided the final margin.
The rain, which was coming down in sheets by this time, prevented both teams from mounting any offense. Each team had only one first down the rest of the way as playing conditions deteriorated.
Crotwell remained upbeat after the game, saying he was proud of how his team responded to the adversity. He hopes the Confederate team will continue to respond in practice.
"Our goal from day one is to get better every day," Crotwell said. "I was particularly impressed with the play of our defense in the second half. I also liked the way our offensive line worked this week in practice and tonight. We just have to do a better job of holding on to the ball."
Caledonia (2-3) will play next week at Choctaw County, while East Webster (5-0) will play at J.Z. George.