’Cats, Colonels suspended due to lightning

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On Thursday, Cass head football coach Bobby Hughes recalled a message he gave his team earlier in the week. Emphasizing the importance of the Region 7-AAAAA opener at Woodland, Hughes said that at roughly 10:30 or 11 p.m. Friday, four teams will be 1-0 and four will be 0-1.

Well, as the clock struck midnight, the Colonels and the Wildcats were both still 0-0 in the region with multiple weather delays forcing the remainder of the game to be suspended to 7 p.m. today.

A roughly 80-minute lightning delay pushed back the start of the second half after Cass had built up a 17-0 halftime advantage. Another subsequent postponement came with the Colonels ahead 24-7 and 2:04 remaining in the third quarter, which is the point when the game will resume Saturday.

After picking up a 15-7 victory over Forsyth Central in its home opener, Cass brought a certain swagger with it on the short trip across Bartow County. The Colonels came out strong from the opening drive and never let the Wildcats establish a rhythm, although several costly penalties hurt Woodland, as well.

Just minutes into the game, Cass picked up a first down on third-and-4, as Tanayce Calhoun scampered for 19 yards. The play seemed to really fire up the Colonels, especially Calhoun, who capped the series with an 18-yard touchdown run.

Cass looked set to double its lead late in the first quarter. Logan Nelson connected on a 44-yard pass to Santino Jones on his only completed pass of the first half to put the Colonels into the red zone. Calhoun reached the 3-yard line to set up a second-and-1 play.

The team could have decided to let the clock expire and take the 7-0 lead into the second quarter. Instead, Cass chose to sprint to the line, but a false start and subsequent holding penalty put the Colonels behind the chains. On the first snap of the second quarter, Nelson just missed Jones in the end zone on third down, leading to Kaleb Speights knocking a 27-yard field goal through the uprights.

Inside the final five minutes of the first half, Cass took over at its own 20-yard line after a Woodland punt just barely crossed the goal line. It took just six plays for the Colonels to enter the opposite end zone.

Zay Jackson started the series with a 26-yard run; David Gbadie added a 10-yard carry; and Calhoun followed his own 3-yard tote with a 12-yard burst into Woodland territory. Two plays later, Jackson took a handoff around the outside and sprinted towards the goal line. He practically ran over a blocker and barreled into the end zone to help give the Colonels a three-score edge.

In the first half, Jackson had 71 yards on just three carries, Calhoun finished just shy of 100 yards on 10 attempts and Gbadie had 19 rushing yards.

Woodland’s offensive night started off with a 24-yard run by Demarcus Williams. The Wildcats, though, only managed four other first downs the remainder of the half. The last of which came on a gutsy fake punt inside the final minute, with Williams, who had 43 yards across the opening two periods, converting on a short run.

Last week, Woodland fell behind 21-0 at halftime on the road at East Hall. The Wildcats responded with 20 straight points to begin the second half. East Hall wound up with a 34-28 victory to stifle any momentum Woodland had gained from its season-opening 35-7 triumph over Southeast Whitfield.

Due to the delays, the Wildcats certainly had plenty of time to form a second half game plan on Friday. The teams had started warming up to begin the third quarter before the initial delay. Just before play was set to resume following the mandatory 30-minute stoppage, another series of strikes pushed back the resumption of the game.

When play finally resumed, Woodland used a strong start to the second half to get back within 10 points. On the first possession of the third quarter, a wide-open Hunter Flynt hauled in a 47-yard pass from Johnathan Thomas to give the Wildcats a huge boost. Williams finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown, and Kevin Moreno’s extra point narrowed the gap to 17-7.

A pair of punts in the following minutes changed the game flow completely. After Cass stalled at midfield, Isai Romero fielded a bad snap and got off the kick, befitting from a friendly bounce to pin Woodland at the 6-yard line. The Wildcats only picked up a single yard on the ensuing drive, and a 15-yard punt gave the Colonels great field position.

It took a single play for Cass to take advantage, as Calhoun burst through the line of scrimmage and fought through an arm tackle to reach the end zone for a second time. Speights drilled the PAT to restore the three-score lead with 2:04 left in the period.

Prior to the kickoff, though, the officials cleared the field after another lightning strike led to a delay. The game was set to resume just after 11 p.m. but another strike forced the teams back off the field during warmups.

Ultimately, the postponements extended past midnight before officials made the call to wait until Saturday night to resume the game.