CAMDENTON -- It was near devastation.
Then it was all elation.
Capital City jumped ahead 17-0 and led by as much as 24-6 before Camdenton took its first lead of the game with 1:19 left to play Friday night at Bob Shore Stadium in Camdenton.
But there was one problem in the No. 2-seeded Lakers’ comeback attempt.
“They gave us too much time,” Capital City coach Joe Collier said.
The Class 5 District 5 No. 3-seeded Cavaliers returned to the field, needing to go 70 yards in 1:16 with one timeout left, but were forced to take the timeout after a sack on second-and-6 to set up third-and-14 from the Cavalier 26.
Evan Schaffer flipped a screen to Phillip Richardson toward the right side of the offensive line, Richardson cut back to the middle in the second level and went toward the left sideline as he gained 72 yards, setting up the Cavaliers at the Camdenton 2.
“When they gave us too much time, I knew one of our guys was gonna break something,” Collier said. “I thought he would score, but when he got out of bounds, I had a feeling we were gonna win the game.”
The Cavaliers attempted a Jaylen Thomas run up the middle, but were stopped, leading to a spike.
On third-and-goal, the Cavaliers went back to Thomas, who was able to punch in his fourth touchdown of the night to put the Cavaliers back in front with seven seconds left.
Weston Schofield hit his fifth extra point to create the final margin as the Cavaliers won 38-35 to earn a spot in the program’s first district championship game.
“It feels amazing,” Cavalier senior lineman Marques Golliday said. “Where we came from and knowing how our past teams had it. Last year’s team really carried this year out, they made the way for us to be here this year.”
With the win, the Cavaliers (8-3) will face a rematch against top-seeded Helias (9-1), which beat No. 5 Washington 38-28 in Friday’s other semifinal. Camdenton ends its season with a record of 8-3.
Capital City jumped in front early, scoring on its first three drives, while holding the Lakers to six total offensive plays on their first two drives.
The Cavaliers opened with an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a Richardson 24-yard touchdown run on a speed option pitch to the left as Richardson ran behind great downfield blocking from Thomas and Chase Atkinson. Richardson’s score put the Cavaliers up 7-0 with 7:56 left in the first quarter.
Then after a Laker punt, The Cavaliers drove 44 yards on nine plays to set up a Schofield 40-yard field goal with 1:10 left in the first quarter.
The Cavaliers forced another Laker punt, and a good return from Isaiah Franklin gave the Cavaliers a short field, starting at the Laker 43.
It took only four plays before Thomas reached the end zone for the first time on a 39-yard pitch to the right.
Schofield’s extra point put the Cavaliers ahead 17-0 with 9:51 left in the first half.
But an old issue started coming back for the Cavaliers, as the Capital City defense forced another Camdenton punt, but fumbled it on the return to give the Lakers new life at the Capital City 34.
A deep shot from Kade Durnin to Kyle Eidson set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Blake Ford to get Camdenton on the board with 8:00 left before halftime. The extra point was missed, leaving the Cavalier lead at 17-6.
The Cavaliers fumbled again on their next drive, but the Capital City defense held firm, forcing another punt.
After starting at their own 20, the Cavaliers needed only four plays for Thomas to break free and run untouched for a 69-yard touchdown. Schofield’s kick gave Capital City the biggest lead of the night at 24-6.
“We were just playing blue football,” Collier said. “That’s the potential. I thought that we’ve grown from the year’s turmoils and we can keep going from there. But we’ve still got some learning to do.”
Then Durnin started taking over.
Camdenton drove 68 yards on six plays, ending with a 10-yard scramble from Durnin. The two point pass failed, leaving Capital City’s lead at 24-12 with 1:21 left before half.
Then the Cavaliers fumbled again on the first play of the ensuing drive, giving the Lakers a short field with 1:05 left before the break.
Camdenton used four plays to go 33 yards, ending when Durnin connected with Owen Borbe for a 4-yard touchdown pass floated over a charging defender trying to stop a Durnin scramble. Willard DeMott hit the extra point to send the game into halftime with the Cavaliers up 24-19.
“It was all about (Durnin),” Collier said. “We would have him sacked, but he would keep getting out on the run. He was running, taking off, like he did to win the Rolla game. He took matters into his own hands and started scrambling.”
Camdenton received the kickoff out of the break and drove 69 yards on 13 plays to set up a 24-yard DeMott field goal to cut the lead to 24-22 with 7:53 left in the third, then the Lakers recovered an onside kick scorched at the front line of the Capital City return team. DeMott fell on his own kick to give the Lakers the ball at the Capital City 48.
But the Cavalier defense got the stop it needed as a 41-yard Laker field goal attempt went wide left, giving the Cavaliers the ball at their own 20 with 5:24 left in the third.
Thirteen plays later and 7:06 game minutes later, Thomas punched in a 1-yard run to put the Cavaliers up 31-22 with 10:16 left to play.
Camdenton answered right back with Durnin running the final 17 yards and three plays of a nine-play, 80-yard drive, ending with a 3-yard quarterback draw. DeMott hit the extra point to bring the Lakers within 31-29 with 7:27 left.
The Cavaliers attempted to run out the clock, but consecutive plays where runners went out of bounds cut the drive short and forced a punt with 3:05 on the clock.
The Lakers converted a third-and-10 on the first set of downs and had gains of 16, 33 and 15 along the way on a 10-play, 84-yard drive, which ended once again with Durnin taking a quarterback draw up the middle for a 6-yard run. The conversion failed, but Camdenton had its first lead at 35-31 with 1:19 left to play, setting up the Cavaliers’ final comeback drive.
“We fought, we made it pretty tough on ourselves with the issues and mental errors,” Collier said. “We had some let up mentally when we got up big, we kind of relaxed and that’s not the thing to do. Everybody we play from now on is going to play the full game.”