Prairie View 22, Trinity Episcopal 20
Two perfectly-executed plays midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the difference as Prairie View prevailed over Natchez (Miss.) Trinity Episcopal 22-20 in a hard-fought nailbiter Friday night.
Prairie View senior wide receiver Tanner Caldwell was involved in both of the game-swinging plays.
With the Spartans trailing 20-14, Caldwell bolted 12 yards to the left side for the game-tying touchdown.
"I thought that was the play of the game," Prairie View coach Bo Barton said. "Coach (Paul Shaw) — I have to give him props on that one — called a counter to the back side, and Tanner Caldwell took it the house. It was a great call, great execution and a great play."
Prairie View (6-1) needed one more great play to retake the lead.
A pair of 5-yard penalties for breaking the huddle with 12 players and a false start backed the Spartans up to the 13 for the 2-point conversion. From there, quarterback Hayes Crockett threw to Caldwell, who made a sliding catch in the end zone to put Prairie View up 22-20 with 6:14 remaining.
"Hayes couldn't have thrown the ball any other place except where he threw it — down and in — and Tanner made a great catch. That was huge."
Late Friday afternoon, Barton wasn't sure Caldwell, who has been battling an illness, was going to be able to play. But he hardly came off the field while seeing double duty at free safety.
"I knew we had to make it," Caldwell said of the 2-point conversion. "I was too tired for overtime. I would have been sick all week."
Prairie View gained a measure of payback after last year's 32-26 second round playoff loss to the Saints last season. Although Trinity has been reclassified to Class 1A this season, it was still a significant win for the Spartans against a long-time nemesis.
"We really wanted this one because we lost to them in the playoffs last year," Caldwell said. "This is the biggest win we've had since I've been playing varsity."
Covering the ensuing kickoff, Trinity (1-5) started its next drive from its own 48.
Blake Ray stopped a first down rushing attempt for a loss of three. Two plays later, the Saints dropped back into punt formation.
Trinity would not get the ball back.
Taking over at their own 21 with 5:11 to play, the Spartans picked up a first down on Crockett's 14-yard run.
Three plays later, Layton Rainbolt's 26-yard reception was good for another first down at the 12.
A first down holding call pushed the Spartans back to the 22, leading to fourth-and-three from the 5. Keeping around the right edge, Crockett stretched past the first down marker before landing at the 1. With the Saints out of timeouts, the Spartans took their final snap from the victory formation.
"I thought tonight was a great test for us," Barton said. "I think we possibly beat the 1A state champions tonight. Trinity's a talented, well-coached team. What we threw at them tonight was something they hadn't see or worked on."
Prairie View's defense was responsible for the game's first key play. Layton Woodard's interception on the second snap from scrimmage enabled the offense to start from its own 49.
An early fourth-and-four gamble paid off for the Spartans as Layton Rainbolt picked up six yards for a first down at the Trinity 40.
Moments later, the Spartans found themselves in another fourth down situation, this time needing nine yards to move the sticks. Woodward's 25-yard reception kept the drive alive before Crockett's 14-yard TD strike to Caldwell gave the Spartans a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Held to only one first down on its first four possessions, the Saints finally got untracked midway through the second period.
Setting up at the 25 after a Prairie View punt, the Saints used a pair of 25-yard receptions by Cedric Daniels and Dee Fleming to mount their first threat of the evening. On fourth-and-nine from the 14, quarterback Sterling Yarbrough rolled to his left and hit Jakarius Caston, who caught the pass at the 1 and stepped into the end zone. Yarbrough's 2-point run gave Trinity its first lead, 8-6, with 6:01 to play in the half.
Gage Riles covered the ensuing kickoff at the Prairie View 44 ahead of a bizarre, flag-filled drive.
With the aid of three major penalties against the Saints — one for roughing the passer and two for late hits — the Spartans soon faced second-and-goal from the 5. A holding penalty and six false starts later, the Spartans punted on fourth-and-goal from the Trinity 48.
Barton and Shaw argued to know avail that the Saints were mimicking Crockett's cadence by hollering, "Go."
On to the second half, the two sides traded punts on their opening series.
Starting from its own 38 after Caldwell's 10-yard punt return, the Spartans attacked the left edge.
Three carries by Crockett and a personal foul facemask against the Saints led to second-and-five from the 30. Veering to his left, Crockett broke into the secondary and made his way to paydirt. Crockett also kept on the conversion as Prairie View went ahead 14-8 with 6:29 left in the third quarter.
Trinity answered with a six-play, 73 yard, game-tying drive.
Caston's 46-yard reception on a screen pass jump-started the series.
Shortly thereafter, Yarbrough kept for five yards on fourth-and-three before connecting with Caston on a 15-yard pass in the left corner of the end zone. Kentrell Spencer's interception on the 2-point pass kept the score tied 14-14 at 3:25 in the third quarter.
Fielding the kickoff on the bounce, Rainbolt sprinted 75 yards untouched, but an illegal block took the touchdown off the board.
Prairie View eventually advanced to the Trinity 16 before running out of downs at the 21.
Capping a nine-play, 79-yard drive, Caston scored his third touchdown on a 25-yard screen pass to give the Saints a 20-14 advantage with 8:50 remaining.
Setting up at their own 37, the Spartans immediately crossed midfield on Rainbolt's 19-yard carry.
Crockett's 7-yard gain on fourth-and-inches enabled the Spartans to restart the down marker from the 27. Keeping, once again, Crockett gained five yards with an additional 11 yards (half the distance) tacked on for a late hit.
Caldwell would take care of the remaining 12 yards.
"I think this is a really good win," Barton said. "I'm proud for our kids. I'm proud for Prairie View. Hats off to our boys. They played their tails off against a good football team."
Total yardage was virtually even as the Spartans produced 266 yards (222 rushing, 44 passing) as compared to the Saints' 254 (227 passing, 27 rushing). Penalty yardage, though alarmingly high on both sides, was even, too. Prairie View was flagged 19 times for 125 yards, while the Saints were assessed 12 penalties for 124.
Playing a turnover-free game, the Spartans came away with a 2-0 edge in turnover margin.
Trinity came into the game with nine touchdowns of 40-plus yards. Caston's 46-yard reception, which set up the second touchdown, was the Saints' lone 40-yard play Friday night.
"I'm proud of our defense," Barton said. "Trinity has so many weapons everywhere. No. 4 (Caston) could play on Saturday somewhere, along with No. 1 (Simpson) and No. 11 (freshman Tre'Von Jackson). I thought we did a good job of slowing them down, and making them earn everything they got."
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Due to an equipment malfunction, the National Anthem abruptly ceased playing midway through the recording. Within seconds, fans, players and cheerleaders from both sides picked up where the glitch occurred and finished the song a cappella.