Friday night featured two of Class A’s best in the number one Cashion Wildcats and the number four Christian Heritage Crusaders, and it was nothing short of a thriller. After a relatively sloppy game by both teams, the fourth quarter was all business for both, but Cashion is the team that remained undefeated at the end.
The first quarter started on a good note for Cashion, unlike their first game of the season. On Christian Heritage’s first drive, Cashion’s defense held them to a quick three-and-out, took over on offense and went straight down the field for a touchdown. On that opening drive, Caden Harrell and T.J. Roberts combined for 45 rushing yards. Hayden Branch stalled Christian Heritage’s first drive with a two-yard sack.
Both teams stalled out offensively through the remainder of the first quarter and neither scored again.
Late in the first, you could see where both teams weren’t at their best and that carried into an outright sloppy second quarter, especially for Cashion. On the second play of Christian Heritage’s first offensive drive of the half, they bruised the Wildcats on a 42-yard run. Luckily, Cashion’s Brexton Green intercepted a potential touchdown pass at the goal line and returned it 21 yards, setting things up for Harrell and the offense. Like stated earlier, despite two consecutive rushes for 30 yards, the Wildcats’ offense went stagnant, and eventually resulted in a Crusader interception.
That was the trend of the entire second quarter for Cashion as they turned the ball over in two out of their three possessions. It seemed as if every time they gained some offensive momentum, they turned the ball over. To make the quarter worse, Christian Heritage went for 42 yards on a 3rd-and-24, which tied things up at seven.
With 3:08 left in the half, after a defensive stop by Cashion, they took over on downs deep in their own territory on the five-yard line. On three consecutive plays, Green combined for 32 yards but again, Cashion’s passing game wouldn’t allow for much more, the drive stalled again, and they turned the ball over on downs. This game was all tied up at seven by halftime.
While both teams were tenacious throughout this game where they both struggled, Cashion started throwing punches first out of the half. On the first play of the half, Cashion threw the ball right into Green’s hand for the second time of the game. The Wildcats quickly answered, after a 26-yard pass-and-catch from Harrell to Alex Navabi, then on the next play a 45 yard run by Ben Harman, who left just one yard for Harrell to run the ball in for a touchdown. After that, it seemed as if Cashion was finally getting it on both sides of the ball. They even forced Christian Heritage into another three-and-out and were rolling defensively, until they reverted back to their first half ways. The drive stalled after two big runs and turned the ball over on downs.
Though tenacious, the offense still wasn’t quite getting it. Defensively on the ensuing drive, they held Christian Heritage to four plays and a punt...then fumbled the punt return at their own 21-yard line, making the road easy for the Crusaders to score their second touchdown of the game, which they did in two plays.
After the Crusaders’ touchdown, the Wildcats took the ball over late in the third quarter. On the same drive, just two plays into the quarter, Harman threw an interception in the end zone.
On Christian Heritage’s drive following the interception, they went three-and-out, then muffed the punt, giving Cashion the ball at the 21-yard line during the fourth quarter. It then wasn’t hard for Cashion to score, as Roberts ran the ball in from five yards out.
On the ensuing possession, Christian Heritage finally put a long, sustained drive together that ate up nearly seven minutes of the clock. They then completed a two-point conversion on a 1-handed catch, which put the Crusaders up 22-21 with 1:30 remaining in the game. With the climate of this game, everyone knew to stay on their toes. And just like that, Cashion went for 47 yards, resulting in a one-yard touchdown by Harrell, which put Cashion back up by 27-22. Since the Wildcats failed to convert the two-point conversion, there was still an atom of hope for the Crusaders to get lucky on a play in the remaining 15 seconds. Luckily for the Wildcats, on the Crusader’s first play they threw an interception straight to Justice Broadbent for a Cashion touchdown.
“We found a way to win, but we have to understand that we did not play our best game tonight. Especially offensively.” Said head coach Lynn Shackelford. “I think defensively we did a pretty good job. I mean, they’re good. They have some wide receivers that can make some plays, and I knew they’d have the opportunity to do that.
Cashion improved to 4-0 and will stay on top of Class A for at least another week. Next Friday, the Wildcats will hit the road to play a (4-0) Elmore CIty-Pernell team that has looked impressive with a couple of big wins, including a 27-0 shutout of Marietta.