COTTONDALE — Some games have to be seen to be believed. This was one of them.
For a second consecutive week, Norris Calhoun and the Cottondale Hornets turned what appeared to be near-certain defeat into a thrilling, heart-pounding 34-28 victory Friday night in the Region 1-1A championship game.
Cottondale’s win propelled the Hornets into a state semifinal showdown at home this Friday, Nov. 29, against undefeated and No. 1-ranked Blountstown.
Northview, the defending Class 1A state champion, fell short in its bid for a third straight trip to the state semis.
Calhoun, with a big push from his offensive linemen, punched the ball into the end zone on a 3-yard touchdown run to give the Hornets (8-4) a 34-28 lead with 50 seconds left in the game. Calhoun was stood up shy of the line of scrimmage before two of his teammates joined the pile and pushed it forward across the goal line.
Northview’s Neino Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff to his team’s 42-yard line, and Robinson raced 28 yards with a reception on the next play to move the ball to Cottondale’s 30. The Hornets forced an incompletion on the next play, however, and they held Ladarius Thomas to 12 yards on the game’s final play to send Cottondale players, coaches and fans alike racing onto the field to celebrate.
Cottondale now will welcome Blountstown — a 34-0 winner over Port St. Joe Friday night — to its home field Friday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff with a berth in the state championship game on the line.
Cottondale took a 26-22 advantage on an 11-yard touchdown romp by Calhoun with 6 minutes left, but the Chiefs (4-7) regained the lead when Keondrae Lett scored from 1 yard with 4:22 remaining. Lett’s touchdown was set up by Thomas’ 54-yard run on the previous play.
On the next possession, the Hornets went to work and drove down the field and thought they had taken the lead on Shaundre Macroy’s 29-yard run only to see the ball moved back 15 yards on a penalty. Cottondale kept fighting, and Justin Klotz’s 20-yard pass to Macroy gave Cottondale a first down at the Northview 5. Calhoun muscled his way into the end zone two plays later to give his team the lead for good.
Calhoun finished with 35 carries for 184 yards, compiling 85 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
Cottondale led 12-6 briefly in the second quarter, but Northview responded with a pair of touchdowns before halftime to carry a 22-12 advantage into the locker room.
The Hornets turned the ball over on downs at the Northview 6 with 5 seconds remaining in the first half and missed a chance to carve into Northview’s two-possession lead before halftime.
Cottondale scored on the opening drive of the second half to pull within 22-20 just 3½ minutes into the third quarter. Marcus Johnson took a pitch on an end-around and then squared up to throw, and Emmanual Lockhart tracked down Johnson’s pass in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. Calhoun punched in the two-point conversion.
After falling behind 6-0 early in the game, the Hornets answered with Calhoun’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone on fourth down to even the score at 6-6 with 4½ minutes left in the opening quarter.
Cottondale scored again on fourth-and-goal in the second quarter when Klotz squeezed a pass between three defenders to Macroy for a 12-6 lead with 8:38 remaining in the half.
The Chiefs scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to regain the lead. Brannon Freeman scored on respective runs of 3 and 4 yards, and Northview added two-point conversions on each of those scores to seize control at 22-12.
The Hornets reached the Northview 1-yard line on their final possession of the half, but a neutral zone infraction on fourth down pushed them back, and Klotz overthrew a receiver in the end zone on the next snap.
Northview 6 16 0 6 — 28
Cottondale6 6 8 14 — 34
Nor: Tullis 2 run (kick failed)
Cot: Calhoun 1 run (run failed)
Cot: Macroy 15 pass from Klotz (pass failed)
Nor: Freeman 3 run (Tullis run)
Nor: Freeman 4 run (Robinson run)
Cot: Lockhart 22 pass from Johnson (Calhoun run)
Cot: Calhoun 11 run (run failed)
Nor: Lett 1 run (run failed)
Cot: Calhoun 3 run (Faulk pass from Calhoun)
RUSHING — Northview: B. Freeman 9-24, Thomas 12-99, Lett 8-39, Tullis 2-(minus-3), Robinson 1-6, Cottondale: Calhoun 35-184, Macroy 8-47, Hall 5-21, Faulk 2-4, Klotz 1-(minus-3),
PASSING — Northview: Tullis 11-18-0 121, Cottondale: Klotz 4-8-1 75, Johnson 1-1-0 22.
RECEIVING — Northview: Freeman 3-24, Robinson 5-70, Newsome 3-31, Cottondale: Faulk 2-41, Macroy 2-34, Lockhart 1-22.