Everett coach Marcelle Carruthers was planning to pass the football on the two-point conversion that would decide the game in overtime.
Until his players spoke up.
“We said, ‘We believe we can go in there and outmuscle those guys’,” senior running back Alec Cambric said.
Cambric took the handoff from junior quarterback Lucas Barner and roared into the end zone standing up to give the Vikings a 22-21 victory over Grand Ledge in a showdown of CAAC Blue undefeated teams on Friday night at Everett.
After taking his players’ advice, Carruthers first picked larger senior running back James Mills to carry the ball, but he then reconsidered. Mills had scored the Vikings’ overtime touchdown to pull Everett within 21-20.
“I wanted Mills to block, because I knew Mills would get that power block that we needed, and he did it,” Carruthers said.
“Before I got the ball, I was thinking touchdown,” Cambric said. “I believed we were going to win. We wanted it bad after all the hard work in the winter time and during the summer.”
Grand Ledge coach Matt Bird said both teams played well in “a great high school football game.”
“It went down to the last play. You can’t fault our kids for that,” he said. “Our defense did a tremendous job containing them. Everett’s a powder keg that’s ready to explode at any minute.”
The Vikings’ first TD came on a 59-yard pass from Barner to University of Cincinnati-bound wide receiver Jaleel Canty.
“We were getting our signals crossed, so we tried to have him (Canty) run inside and then have him bend back outside,” Carruthers said. “He and the quarterback got together, talked about it, and it worked out.”
A missed extra point made it 7-6 Comets at halftime. Grand Ledge had scored first on a 16-yard pass from senior quarterback Ben Cornell to senior tight end Will Farr with just 1:02 left in the second quarter.
Cambric, who rushed for 66 yards on 15 carries, put the Vikings ahead from six yards out. Barner connected with Canty on a two-point conversion pass to make it 14-7 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Comets tied it on a 13-yard run by junior running back Joe Reverman with 6:53 remaining.
“We called a pass play, and they covered it extremely well,” Bird said. “Ben just went and made a heck of a play.”
The tying TD came two plays after a bad snap on an Everett punt attempt. A player not used to snapping for punts had to be given the job just seconds before the play started when the usual snapper left the field with an injury.
Grand Ledge might have had a chance to drive and win the game in regulation, but Everett’s Mills recovered a fumble on a punt.
The Vikings tried various passes to see if they could score in the closing seconds, but most were incomplete and time ran out.
The Comets got the ball first in overtime, and Cornell’s 4-yard run and Bradlee Taylor’s extra point kick put Grand Ledge ahead 21-14.
Everett also edged the Comets by a point a year ago at Grand Ledge, 15-14. The victory kept the Comets from winning the CAAC Blue title outright and enabled the Vikings — who went 0-9 in 2010 — to finish 4-5.
“I always love playing against Grand Ledge,” Cambric said.
“They compete hard. Winning against them is something to remember.”
Friday’s victory over the Division 1 honorable mention Comets (5-2, 4-1) put the Division 2 fourth-ranked Vikings alone atop the CAAC Blue. Everett (7-0, 5-0) can clinch a tie for the title with a victory at Sexton on Friday or one in its regular season finale at Jackson on Oct. 19. Wins in both games would earn the Vikings the outright title.
“I’m so happy right now, it’s amazing,” Carruthers said. “The kids are great, and it’s good for the community.”