Meridian Star

Sports

October 30, 2013

Calvary crossing into forgotten territory

—     It's been dark, very dark, on the Calvary Christian High School football field for many years.

    Just when things were looking up with the addition of three much-needed transfers midway through this season, the darkness crept inside the school doors after the death of a female student during Homecoming week.

    "They dealt with that just the way you'd think teenage kids would — they got hit hard," head coach Kirby Newell said. "It was one of those things that happened early in the week and it lingered on. As sad as it was, they (the team) were able to stay focused on what they had to do that Friday night, and God bless them. They handled it, probably, better than I did."

    On the gridiron, with black tape decals in Brittany Rebecca's honor, the Cougars brought life back under the lights and refocused the student body's attention with a big Homecoming win on Oct. 11.

     Calvary routed Vertias, 60-20, for its second win of a current four-game streak. It was the second meeting of the two schools after the Cougars lost the season opener against the Lions, 48-28.

    This week, Calvary is hoping to push the streak to five games with a win at home over Christian Collegiate Academy in the regular season finale. A win would also do the once-unthinkable — clinch a division title.

    "We haven't been in this situation since 2009," Newell said. "We haven't had anything to play for. Haven't even come close to being in the playoffs. Our kids know what's at stake and they are looking forward to it." 

    Using the two Vertias results as proof, Newell said he knows his boys are better than when they dropped a 34-20 decision to the Bulldogs on Sept. 20, and he hopes to channel a bit of the season-turning-point win on Friday night.

    "From where our program has come from the beginning of the year, this is something special for us to be out here," Newell said. "It really it is."

    A lot has changed since the first half the season, as if Calvary's bye week at the end of September let the 2013 season start over.

    The obvious change is the new additions.

    The unexpected is that they are playing for the division title.

    "I never thought about winning a ballgame, never thought about playing for a district championship, never thought about playoffs," Newell said. "None of that never, ever entered my mind. My goal was to keep the football program going."

    Over the summer, this point or the reality that the Cougars will be playing football in November seemed to replace "when pigs fly" as a joke's punch line.

    In early August, Newell and the administration had been 30 minutes from ending the Cougars season in fear of not having enough bodies. He'd been in a similar situation the year before and stuck with his gut. That's when he set a goal of just finishing the year. He threw out record requirements and decided he didn't care if they never won a single game. He just wanted bodies on the field and to keep the program alive.

    "I took a gamble, probably should have shut it down right there," Newell said. "I kind of felt like if we could keep it alive and get eight or nine, then I kind of felt like the Lord was going to send us somebody. Not only did he send us somebody, he sent us several."

    Fast forward to present day and he's left speechless. Tranfers Alijaoen Kennedy, Michael Bradley and Michael Sullivan joined the Cougars for a 51-point victory over Friendship Christian Academy on Oct. 4, since then they've outscored opponents 226-81.

    Kennedy, a reciever, has made an impact on the Cougars passing game, which will be on display Friday night. But he wouldn't have much luck without Sullivan's 6-foot-2, 295-pound frame on the offensive line.

    "These new kids have taken all the pressure off of [quarterback Smokey Washem]," Newell said.

    Beginning-of-the-season newcomer Washem, who had never played football before, has put up almost 1,500 yards of offense this season but is now getting some help.

     "When we were 1-4, it was Smokey doing everything," Newell said. "People knew if they stopped Smokey, they stopped us. They can't do that now."

    Newell expects Christian to be fully aware of what the Cougars are now packing and said Friday night should be just as tough as the first time they played, but more so as they are going head-to-head for the division title. 

    "If we can beat Christian Collegiate, boy that'd be give our school something to celebrate, something they haven't had a chance to do in several years," Newell said. "We'll worry about the playoffs later. We want this district championship."

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