BY NICHOLAS SULLIVAN
Individual rivalry games often get remembered for incredible performances, breathtaking finishes or unusual circumstances. The latter category certainly applied to this weekend’s Cass-Woodland game.
With the Wildcats program having only been in existence a little more than two decades, this particular rivalry doesn’t have quite the history of some others. Then again, the Colonels and Wildcats could play every year for the next century and may never experience something quite like this matchup.
Almost exactly 24 hours after the teams kicked off Friday night, the game finally came to a close with Cass earning a 36-7 win Saturday at Wildcat Stadium.
Multiple weather delays Friday postponed the start of the second half and eventually caused a lengthy stoppage in the third quarter. The Colonels led 24-7 with 2:04 remaining in the period, at the time of the delay. Just after midnight, officials announced that the game had been suspended and would continue at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Neither head coach had ever experienced anything quite like this unique set of circumstances.
“It was something new for all of us,” Cass’ Bobby Hughes said. “Some of us have been coaching 25 years and never been through this. I thought the kids did a really good job of staying focused.
“Me and coach [Jamey] Gaddy were at the field house until 5 o’clock this morning doing laundry, so we could have it clean and ready to go today. We had other coaches take care of the pregame meal we had to get. We approached it just like another game day.”
Said Woodland’s Tony Plott, “It’s hard; it’s challenging. You can only get the kids up so many times before they’re just drained emotionally and physically.
“It’s a first for us — to start a game and finish on a different day. We’ve had a game in the past against Cass that was pushed back to Saturday because of the weather. It started on Saturday and ended on Saturday, but there’s been nothing like this before.”
On Saturday in front of a mostly pro-Colonels crowd, Cass picked up almost exactly where it left off the night before.
The Colonels continued to stymie the Wildcats offense, despite Woodland having excellent field position on each of its first three drives Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Cass offense struck for a big play on its first snap. Senior quarterback Logan Nelson lofted a pass downfield, and sophomore Santino Jones bobbled the ball but eventually secured it en route to a 77-yard touchdown.
Facing a 30-7 deficit, Woodland managed to drive into Cass territory on consecutive possessions. However, a swarming Colonels defense forced a turn over on downs the first time and a fumble the second.
Mark Perdue recovered the fumble and nearly scored a touchdown for the second straight week. After returning a fumble the distance in a 15-7 win over Forsyth Central last week, Perdue was tackled at the 8-yard line this time.
“It’s not one guy; it’s several guys all working together,” Hughes said of the defensive effort, which has limited opponents to 28 total points through three games. “It starts in the middle with [Noah] Hoffmeier and goes back to Zay Jackson and JaCorey Jackson in the secondary, and then there’s the linebackers with Reed Davis, Cameron Hill, Elijah Harris and Ian Lowe. They’re all contributing and doing a really good job.”
David Gbadie finished off the series — and the scoring — with a 2-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 26 yards rushing.
Tanayce Calhoun led the Cass rushing attack, which racked up 227 yards. The junior wound up with two touchdowns and 124 rushing yards — all prior to the suspension of play. Zay Jackson also contributed 71 yards rushing on just three carries, including a 33-yard touchdown.
“The backs were really quick and the linemen were quick up front, getting on bodies and staying on bodies,” Hughes said. “We really did a good job up front.”
Nelson only completed two passes, but they were both huge plays to Jones. Other than the 77-yard score, Nelson connected with Jones on a 44-yard reception to set up a field goal in Friday’s portion. But it was Saturday’s connection that almost completely dashed any hopes of a Woodland comeback.
“We really wanted to take that first drive, come down and score, and then it’s a 24-14 game,” Plott said of his hopes for Saturday. “Anything can happen with a quarter left. But we weren’t able to do that.
“Hats off to Cass. They played hard, they got after us and we weren’t able to do anything with it.”
Woodland’s only touchdown came early in the third quarter after the initial set of delays. Quarterback Johnathan Thomas connected with Hunter Flynt on a big pass play to spark the offense.
“Coach Plott’s always going to have one or two of those in his repertoire that he’s going to hit you with,” Hughes said.
Demarcus Williams, who totaled 64 yards, finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to briefly pull the Wildcats within 17-7.
“On that drive, you saw that we can play at times,” Plott said. “It’s just inconsistency right now that’s getting us.”
Cass improves to 2-1 overall and gets a leg up in Region 7-AAAAA with a 1-0 mark in league play with Villa Rica next on the schedule. Woodland, meanwhile, is now 1-2 and 0-1 in the region with a trip to Paulding County on the horizon.
“I’m excited that we can get this one under our belts, move forward and get ready for Villa Rica,” Hughes said, roughly 21 hours after he was hoping to have secured the victory.