In a regular season finale between the Cascade Champions and Summertown Eagles, one or two plays made the other way could have swung the pendulum in favor of the home crowd.
Instead, the Eagles relied on a fourth-down prayer and a timely turnover to stun the Champions on their home field in a 21-17 thriller.
“It was two evenly matched ball teams. They both play smash mouth football and play good defense. One or two plays—it’s like that in most games— it will dictate the outcome of the game,” Cascade coach Jake Tyre said.
One of those plays that tipped momentum in favor of the Eagles late in the fourth quarter when the Champion defense had answered the bell on a short field and backed Summertown up to fourth and 11 from the 29-yard line.
Eagle quarterback Colton Shaffer scrambled and bought just enough time to find Javen Edmiston on a touchdown pass in the end zone to put Summertown up by four, following the blocked extra point.
Following the score, Summertown opted for a short kick, which Cascade took possession on the 50-yard line.
With prime starting field position, the Champions were able to work the offense and twice converted fourth down to push to the Summertown 25-yard line.
But on the first play of the new set of downs, quarterback Ryan Inmon was stripped when pushing the pile and the Eagles pounced on the loose ball to all but seal the Champs’ fate.
Prior to the late-game drama, Friday’s contest proved to be an all-out defensive war between the two squads, fighting for second place in Region 5-2A.
On the first play from scrimmage, Summertown running back Ty Bryant bounced to the outside and streaked down the visitor sideline 80 yards for the first score.
A Cascade penalty on the extra point prompted the visitors to attempt a two-point conversion, which Shaffer ran in for the 8-0 Summertown lead with just 16 ticks off the clock.
Cascade answered with a scoring drive that took nearly four minutes off the clock that ended with a 36-yard field goal by Drake Hodge, cutting the Eagles’ lead to five points.
Aside from that first play, the Champion defense gave up just 30 yards of offense to the Eagles through the remainder of the half.
But like the Eagles, the Champions struggled to sustain drives following Hodge’s field goal and Cascade punted on the following two possessions and had a turnover on downs on the Eagles’ 21-yard line, following a blocked punt.
After Cascade forced a punt with 4:03 left in the first half, Inmon took over and having struggled to move the ball on the ground, the Champions were able to effectively slice through the Summertown defense through the pass game.
Inmon dug the Champs out of their own end of the field when he connected with Hayden Dowell on a 47-yard pickup down the seam, but a personal foul after the catch set the Champs up on the 50, instead of the Summertown 35-yard line.
Two plays later, Inmon again went to the air, this time finding Xamarion Dixon on a 32-yard pass.
Inmon finished the drive after he scrambled on third and long and connected with Dowell in the end zone for the 16-yard strike with 53 seconds left.
Hodge connected on his first of two extra points, putting Cascade up 10-8 at the half.
Like the Eagles, the Champions struggled to effectively move the ball on the ground, only mustering up 10 yards on 16 carries in the first half.
Inmon connected on 6-of-10 passes for 143 yards through the air, however.
And the second half started about as well as Cascade could have asked.
On the first drive of the third frame, the Champs orchestrated a 4:57, nine-play, scoring drive.
On fourth down from the Summertown 15, Inmon connected with Taylor Dowell, but after pushing the pile past the first down marker, the ball was stripped and recovered by Isaac Chapa, who returned the ball five yards to put Cascade up 17-8 following Hodge’s second PAT of the night.
But as well as the third quarter started for the Champions, the fourth quarter was all Summertown as the Eagles scored on their first two drives, the first of which came on a five-yard run by Shaffer with 10 minutes left to pull within two points.
Cascade’s following drive stalled on its own 37-yard line and prompted a punt, which was blocked and recovered by the Eagles on the Champion 29-yard line.
Three-plays later, the Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown with 7:32 left in the game.
As a team, the Champions totaled 260 yards of offense, with just 97 coming on the ground.
Inmon was the top runner for the Champs, totaling 77 yards on 20 carries.
He also completed 9-of-19 passes for 163 yards.
The Eagles churned out 245 yards of offense, with 170 coming on the ground.
After not completing a single pass in the first half, Shaffer finished the game 4-of-9 for 75 yards.
While the home playoff berth eluded the Champions, the road isn’t over and Cascade will advance to the TSSAA playoffs for the second year in a row, which could prove to be in Cascade’s favor.
On the season, the Champions have proven to be quite the road warriors, posting a 5-0 record.
The first-round matchup puts the Champs on a collision course with Lewis County, who was blown out by Decatur County Riverside on Friday night, 42-13.
After falling to the Eagles, Tyre says his team has a bad taste its mouth and is eager to right the ship and prepare the postseason.
“They’re going to be mad and upset. They’re going to come out next week and have a great week of practice,” Tyre said.
Cascade closes the regular season after posting an 8-2 record, the best mark since the Champions’ perfect regular season in 2008.
“They came out and battled all year long. These five seniors led this team all year long. They’re going to continue to lead them. We’re one of 32 teams left in the state. That’s pretty good,” Tyre said.
Cascade will begin its trek in the playoffs on Friday night at Lewis County.
Summertown 8 0 0 13 — 21
Cascade 3 7 7 0 — 17
S — Ty Bryant 80 run, (Colton Shaffer 2pt. run), 11:44.
C — Drake Hodge 36 field goal, 7:49.
C — Hayden Dowell 16 pass from Ryan Inmon, (Hodge kick), :53.
C — Issac Chapa 5 strip recovery, (Hodge kick), 7:03.
S — Shaffer 5 run, (Anthony Williams kick), 10:00.
S — Javen Edmiston 29 pass from Shaffer, (kick blocked), 7:32.
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