On the very first play of the fourth quarter in Friday night’s scrimmage, Pepperell scored a 1-yard touchdown run to extend the Dragons’ lead over Cass to 21-10.
Approximately 11 minutes and 56 seconds later, junior kicker Kaleb Speights booted the pigskin through the uprights from about 25 yards out to give the Colonels a thrilling 23-21 victory at literally the last second of the contest.
“How about that?” a euphoric Cass head coach Bobby Hughes said after the victory. “Our kids keep believing in what we’re doing, and they keep fighting.”
The Dragons tried the old “icing the kicker” routine, calling three consecutive timeouts before Speights went for the game-winning kick. And it almost worked — Speights’ initial kick from 35 yards out was no good.
Alas, a penalty on Pepperell gave the Colonels an opportunity for a re-do — this time, 10 yards closer to the goal post.
As for what gave Cass the momentum shift, Hughes chalked it up to freshman slotback Morocco Wilkey’s thundering 40-yard touchdown run on Cass’ second possession of the fourth quarter. From there, Cass would cut into Pepperell’s lead even further with another Speights field goal with about seven and a half minutes remaining in the quarter.
It remained 21-20 Pepperell for the remainder of the game — except, of course, for its very last second.
The on-field action came to a halt for about 30 minutes when a Cass player sustained what appeared to be a severe injury halfway through the fourth. Personnel tended to the downed player before an ambulance arrived.
“He was fine and moving everything,” said Hughes, who did not name the player. “I was the first one out there, and he was good.”
To begin the game, the Colonels chewed about six minutes off the clock on their first possession, at one point pushing their way down to the Pepperell 9-yard line. Back-to-back penalties, however, would send Cass back to around the Dragons’ 30, with Speights missing on a 45-yard field goal attempt.
Pepperell’s offense didn’t get much momentum going on their first offensive possession, with the Dragons forced to punt from midfield. Cass started the next drive from its own 13, with a failed flea flicker attempt forcing the team to punt around its own 10-yard line.
The Cass defense had an opportunity to shine on the next play, with senior linebacker Zachariah Green scooping up a fumble to once again give the Colonels possession of the pigskin. Alas, the Colonels offense could not move the ball beyond their own 32 on the ensuing possession.
Pepperell started the second quarter with control of the ball at its own 12. About five minutes later, the Dragons hit pay dirt on a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 Dragons with 7:48 remaining in the first half.
Cass went three and out on the next possession, with senior quarterback Logan Nelson lobbing three incompletions before the team was forced to punt the ball away from their own 30.
On the next play the Colonels’ D gave up a huge 50-yard-plus run, which ultimately set the Dragons up for another touchdown run at the 6:06 mark of the quarter.
Speights would go on to nail a 46-yard field goal with 10 seconds left in the first half to finally get Cass on the scoreboard.
The Colonels got solid ground production in the first two quarters, with junior running back David Gbadie collecting over 50 yards rushing and junior slotback Zay Jackson collecting about 40.
Senior running back Cameran Hill also had a good showing, at one point breaking off a 30-plus yard TD run with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
While neither Nelson or senior Triston Mize lobbed any touchdown passes, Hughes said he was nonetheless pleased by their performances.
“They both did really good things and didn’t make any big mistakes,” Hughes said.
While the game may have only been a scrimmage, Hughes said he’s optimistic the momentum from the come-from-behind victory will carry over into the Colonels’ regular season.
“That’s a dadgum good football team, and for us to to be able to beat a team like that?” he said. “That’s definitely something to build on.”