Nail-biter: Caldwell edges Fort Frye 20-19 in PVC showdown

BEVERLY – Down by a point with just over a minute on the clock.

Play for the tie or go for the win?

It’s one of the toughest decisions facing any football coach, and no matter how it turns out one of those two coaches in the game will be left wondering what might’ve been if the decision had gone the other way.

The Caldwell Redskins’ defense stood strong, stopping Fort Frye running back Colten Shuster one yard short of the endzone on an option from quarterback Chandler Lang to preserve a 20-19 victory over the Cadets in Beverly, effectively spoiling homecoming.

“Two years in a row, a game decided by a yard on a two point conversion,” said Caldwell football coach Josh Perkins. “We made big plays when we needed it.”

No play proved to be bigger for the Redskins than the stop of Shuster, who nearly electrified the home coming crowd by completing the comeback in a game the Cadets never led in, but never trailed by more than a touchdown.

Instead, Caldwell sophomore Bricker Lori found a way to trip up Shuster as he lunged for the end zone, preserving the margin of victory and sending both teams to a 6-2 record on the season.

“I’m just a go for the win kinda guy,” Fort Frye football coach Eric Huck said of the decision.

The decision to go for two was prompted when Lang scrambled 17 yards to the end zone to tie the game, after the Cadets watched the Redskins capitalize on their third run of at least 27 yards to take the lead.

The bulk of that damage came from Lori, who picked up 212 yards rushing on 17 carries. Of those 212 yards, 125 came on two long touchdown runs to answer scores by the Cadets and put the Redskins back on top.

“He runs hard, and our offensive line picked it up there at the end,” Perkins said.

Other than those two big scampers, the Cadets largely kept the talented Lori in check as he approaches the 1,000 yard mark for the season with two games to play.

“I thought our defense played well, except for the few big plays we gave up,” Huck said. “Once they got into the secondary we couldn’t tackle them.”

It took the Redskins all of one possession to showcase how dangerous Lori and quarterback Tanner Clark can be.

After the Cadets turned the opening possession over on downs at the Caldwell 27, the Redskins needed just four plays to find the end zone. Twice Lori busted through the line into the secondary for gains of 19 and 26 yards, and Clark dropped back to pass, only to scramble and find running room to go 27 yards for the opening score with 7:59 in the first quarter.

Fort Frye righted the ship defensively, keeping the Redskins from managing any more of those big gains as Caldwell would punt on its next four drives.

The Cadets could capitalize just once, as they took advantage of a pass interference call to set up Lang’s 17 run to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:49 in the opening half.

As they did each time the Cadets found the end zone, the Redskins answered.

Lining up in their two minute offense, the Redskins went to a couple pass plays, before a draw by Lori resulted in a 49-yard touchdown run to set the halftime score at 13-7 after a missed extra point.

“They (Caldwell) are a good football team. I think we made too many mistakes, let things get away from us,” Huck said.

Third quarter play proved to be all about the defense, as neither team could manage to move the chains effectively.

That changed on the Cadets’ final possession of the third, which stretched over into the fourth and resulted in Derek Layton’s 7-yard touchdown run with 11:07 in the game. With the game tied, the Cadets went for the extra point only to have the line drive kick hit the bottom of the crossbar, leaving the score 13-13.

Just two plays later, Caldwell found the game winner as Lori ran 76 yards through a host of Cadet tackles to reach paydirt.

Fort Frye turned the ball over on downs at the Redskin 15 on its next possession, but the defense gave the Cadets one more chance at redemption and they capitalized in the biggest fashion.

Taking possession at the Caldwell 49, Shuster took a pitch from Lang and raced 23 yards to the 17, setting up the final score when Lang ran the next play into the end zone.

But with the stands rocking on both sides of the stadium, it was the Redskins who made the play that left coach Huck wondering what might’ve been, while Perkins celebrated an epic win.

“Everybody played great,” Perkins said. “It was a Noble County effort and we’ll take it.”