While the remainder of his Calvary teammates celebrated on and off the field, running back Orlando Bradford sat on a metal bench in Shreveport’s Independence Stadium on Saturday night with ice wrapped around his ankle while still trying to catch his breath.
Bradford’s effort was emblematic of his team’s leave-it-all-on-the-field attitude that allowed the Class 2A Cavaliers to upset Class 5A’s top-ranked West Monroe Rebels 40-29 on Saturday night in the Battle on the Border finale.
“How could you have more fun? They hit us with a right hook. We hit them with a right hook,” Calvary coach John Bachman exclaimed. “They jabbed us, we jabbed them. It came down to who wanted to make more plays and tonight was our night.”
If the Cavaliers go on to play in the Superdome for the Class 2A state title, and it would appear they have enough talent to do so, Saturday’s win may become just a blip on their radar. But for one night, the Cavs celebrated like they had just defeated Evangel for the state title. They did it against one of the most storied programs in the state and the defending Class 5A champs, which were humble in defeat.
“We got out-played, we got out-coached, we got out-scored,” interim West Monroe coach Jerry Arledge said. “They have an outstanding quarterback and an outstanding running back, and they have most of their offensive line back. One game doesn’t make our season and we will learn from this.”
The heroes were many for the Cavaliers (2-0) on this night, but they started with Weston Steelhammer. Whether he was running the defense from his safety position or taking shots on catches across the middle, the senior came up with big play after big play to keep the Rebels (1-1) at bay.
“Words can’t explain what this win means to us,” Steelhammer said. “They are a tough team, but we strapped it on and all hung together like coach told us to do. We used all 48 minutes to get this win.”
The Cavaliers had several fourth-quarter saves, including an interception by Shun Brown and a fumble recovery by Jamal Brown. Then there was the clinching touchdown run by Bradford with less than two minutes remaining that left him spent for the evening.
“We were well prepared by our coaches,” Bradford said. “We’ve still got to go to work to have a chance to go to make it to state.”
The Rebels got on the board first after a failed fake punt attempt by the Cavs set the visitors up at the Calvary 29. It took just seven plays for Segrick Williams to cash in from 1 yard out. Calvary’s Russell McNabb blocked a Rebel punt on the next series and the Cavs cashed in with a 34-yard Thomas Sanford field goal.
But the kick seemed to inspire the West Monroe offense, especially quarterback Michael Mims, who covered 73 yards in two plays moments later to put the Rebels back on top 14-3 with about 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter. Calvary was moving the ball against the Rebs on a series that spanned the first and second quarter, but it died when Bradford fumbled and Xavier Woods recovered at the West Monroe 23.
The visitors couldn’t take advantage, however, and punted back to Calvary. Daniel Fitzwater was methodical moving down the field in small chunks and was able to get a score on a freaky Saturday play. His pass from two yards out was intended for Lane Falcon, but a West Monroe defender tipped it and Calvary lineman Zack Tabor pulled it in just over the goal line. The kick failed, but the Cavs were within 14-9.
After West Monroe went three-and-out on their ensuing series, Fitzwater again put together a drive that was aided by a pass interference call. But Bradford gave Calvary its first lead when he cashed in from 2 yards out. It appeared the Rebels would run out the final 1:35, but Williams broke free on the right side and went 33 yards to the Calvary 26. One play later, Mims rolled out of a sack and went the distance around the left side for a 21-16 West Monroe lead at the half.