TUNNEL HILL — Midway through the fourth quarter, Northwest Whitfield lined up for a 29-yard field goal attempt that would have pushed the Bruins’ lead to 11 points with all of the momentum headed to a Region 7-4A crossover victory.
But Kadeem Buford and the rest of the Cass Colonels had other plans.
Buford bust through the left side of the Northwest protection and blocked Bryan Villa’s attempt, and the ball bounced directly into Buford’s hands with nothing but crisp night air in front of him.
Buford raced 81 yards for a score that tied the game and then the Colonels won it with a 61-yard drive in six plays as quarterback Brandon Etheridge put the finishing touches with a 31-yard scoring run. The turnaround gave Cass a 25-17 victory over the Bruins and pushed the Colonels to 3-1 on the year, a season removed from a winless campaign in 2011.
“We just had to come out and keep playing and never quit,” Buford said. “We heard all week how this is the same old Cass team that can’t win games. We are proving people wrong.”
Northwest Whitfield suffered its first loss of the season in its home opener.
It was a night where all of the little things went right for the Colonels. Cass’ first score was set up on a desperation heave from Etheridge that looked like a sure interception at the goal line, but instead Northwest’s Seth Pierce tipped the ball in the air and it landed in the hands of Kelin Wells at the 2-yard line. But still Northwest had a 14-0 lead at the end of the first half on a 34-yard scoring pass to O’Shea Hill from Silas Ledford and a 15-yard touchdown pass from Ledford to Andy Whisenant in the waning seconds of the first half.
“We just never gave up,” Cass coach Rick Casko said. “Northwest played a great game, but our kids never gave up. It looked like it was going to be over when they lined up for that field goal, but they never gave up.”
Casko said this was the kind of victory that would have been tough for his team to have come away with last year with a roster filled with sophomores. Those sophomores are starting to show their maturity.
“They were so young last year, but they gained the experience, and now they can get it done,” he said.
Etheridge finished with 140 yards passing on a 10-of-21 performance, but he was picked off twice. However, he managed the offense well in the second half as the Colonels dominated time of possession.
“We started off the game very well holding their offense in check, but we didn’t get a stop when we needed it,” Northwest coach Josh Robinson said. “The problem is the end of the game is just as important as the beginning of the game, and we didn’t get the job done.”