By Julie LaFollette
Caldwell Earns a Spot in the DVII Final Four with Win Over Eastern
The Caldwell Redskins took on Reedsville Eastern in the Elite Eight game on Friday at Warren High School and advanced to the Final Four with a come-from-behind 20-19 victory.
“I am super happy and super pleased with our performance,” Caldwell Head Coach Chance Rucker stated. “I am super proud of the entire team, the offense, the defense, and special teams to pull through and do this. We had our mojo early on but then it kind of fell off. We were able to capitalize on the momentum swings late in the game and that is what got us to the victory.”
“We knew from watching film this week that Eastern was going to run the football.” Coach Rucker continued. “We had a couple crucial stops and the fumbled punt that we came out on top at the end. This is why we coach. This is something special that these kids will never forget.”
This is the second time in school history that the Redskins have played in an Elite Eight game, the last time being in 2015 when Coach Rucker was a senior lineman for the Redskins. “It has been eight years since we have been here. It is cool to go to the Elite Eight but we have been there, done that and we expect nothing but excellence and nothing but success and they did that.”
The Reskins started the game with Ethan Crock returning the opening kickoff 29 yards to the 34. It then took the Redskins 10 plays to get into the endzone with Crock running it in from the one. The big play of the drive was a nine yard pass from Cale Bender to Dylan Wheeler. Chaz Pfeffer nailed the point after kick and the Redskins led 7-0 with 8:03 remaining in the first quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, Eastern got the ball in excellent field position following a Caldwell penalty. It took the Eagles seven plays to go 54 yards for the touchdown. Gavan Smith had a big 10 yard run in the drive before Rylee Barrett ran it in from the 11. Hayden Wilcoxen made the extra point kick and the game was tied at seven with 55 seconds to play in the opening period.
Eastern scored again on their next possession, going 43 yards in six plays with Tyler Hill getting the 10 yard touchdown run. The extra point kick was wide and Eastern led 13-6 with 9:19 to play in the first half.
The Eagles scored on their second possession of the second half, taking the ball 73 yards in eight plays. Smith had a big 21 yard run in the drive and then Hill ran it in from the 21 for the touchdown. The two point conversion pass attempt fell short and Eastern led 19-7 with 4:32 to play in the third quarter.
On the ensuing Redskins drive, the Eagles defense forced a fourth and long and Devin McKee punted the ball away for Caldwell. The Eagles deep man fumbled the catch and Alex Herlan jumped on the ball on the 16 yard line, giving the Redskins new life. It then took them two plays for Wheeler to run it in from the 10. Pfeffer’s kick was good and Caldwell cut the lead to 19-14 with 2:22 remaining in the third period.
Coach Rucker said “Momentum is a big thing, when we flipped in on a dime on the fumble recovery and then capitalized on it. That busted it wide open for us.”
Neither team could move the ball until a shanked Eastern punt gave Caldwell the ball on the 48 yard line with just over two minutes left in the game. Wheeler ran the ball three straight plays including a long run of 13 yard. Then Bender dropped back to pass and found Hunter Petry in the back of the endzone from 26 yards out. The point after pass attempt failed and Caldwell led 20-19 with just 44 seconds left in the game.
“Petry is a kid who it is his first year coming out to play high school football.” Coach Rucker commented. “It has been super special to watch this kid grow. He worked his way up from JV to a varsity starter. He works harder than anyone I know. To come out for the first time as a senior and make the game winning catch is something special. I am super proud of him.”
Pfeffer put the kickoff deep and pinned the Eagles deep in their own territory with little time remaining. The Eagles got a first down on a 13 yard pass from Ethan Edwards to Gavin Murphy with 29 seconds left. The Redskins defense stepped up and Eastern threw four straight incomplete passes including one that was broken up by Wheeler. That gave the Redskins the ball back and clinched their spot in the Final Four with five seconds left on the clock.
The Redskins had 226 yards of total offense, 140 on the ground and 86 through the air. Bender was 12-of-16 for 86 yards. Petry was the leading receiver, catching three passes for 50 yards and the winning touchdown catch of 26 yards. Herlan had six receptions for 18 yards and Wheeler caught three for 18 yards.
Wheeler led the ground attack for the Redskins, carrying the ball 18 times for 76 yards. Crock ran seven times for 50 yards, and Bender ran 11 times for 19 yards.
Defensively, Dalton Egnot had 13 tackles while Jonah Moracco and Crock had 11 each. Herlan had a fumble recovery for the Redskins.
Eastern had 282 total yards, 261 rushing and 21 passing. Edwards and Cooper Barrett combined to go 2-of-7 for 21 yards. Murphy caught one for 13 yards and Hill caught one for eight yards. Hill led the Eagles rushing with 18 carries for 101 yards and Barrett ran 21 time for 80 yards.
The 11-3 Redskins will travel to Zanesville High School on Friday to take on the Dalton Bulldogs. Dalton is 12-1 and advanced to the Final Four with a 31-8 win over Danville.
Caldwell 7 0 7 6 – 20
Eastern 7 6 6 0 – 19
C – Ethan Crock, 1-yd run (Chaz Pfeffer, kick), 8:03
E – Rylee Barrett, 11-yd run (Hayden Wilcoxen, kick), :55
E – Tyler Hill, 10-yd run (kick failed), 9:19
E – Hill, 25-yd run (pass failed), 4:32.
C – Dylan Wheeler, 10-yd run (Pfeffer, kick), 2:22
C – Hunter Petry, 26-yd pass from Cale Bender (pass failed), :44.