Undefeated no more

Steve Bubalo/PrepsKC

By Steve Bubalo PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 10, 2014 - 11:17 PM

Tony Caldwell’s monster game in Center High School’s impressive 21-9 win over previously undefeated O’Hara Friday night was personified perfectly in the first drive of the second half.

The Yellow Jackets trailed 9-7 at the half and their opening drive was all Caldwell. He was doing it all – running around defenders, running through defenders and catching passes.

Caldwell accounted for all 66 yards on the drive – all but 16 came on the ground – with the final 4 yards coming in hard-fought fashion to give Center the lead for good, 15-9 after the two-point conversion.

“I’m not sure we blocked a soul on his second touchdown,” Center head coach Bryan DeLong said with a laugh.

Added Caldwell, “We were resilient. Going into the half we knew they were good but they were beatable. … I had to run hard all game.”

After getting behind 9-0 after one quarter, Caldwell took over, running for 166 yards on 24 carries.

“If you look at other film of him, he is a horse,” O’Hara head coach Jim DeMarea said. “He has quick feet. He took over and did some damage. And you have to give credit to their team blocking.”

It wasn’t all going well for the Yellow Jackets, though, as despite the rainy and wet conditions, the Celtics offense came out and moved the ball, scoring a touchdown on their first drive and adding a field goal on their second to make it 9-0.

The second drive was nearly a touchdown as well before a penalty on a 1-yard touchdown when quarterback Michael Briggs was pushed into the end zone by a teammate.

Either way, O’Hara was moving the ball and DeLong couldn’t help but get a little nervous.

“I thought we were in for a long night,” he said.

But the defense settled down, rarely allowing more than a first down or two to the high-powered Celtic offense that could never get on track.

“Things that didn’t happen over the first seven games were happening, and when they happen it starts to snowball,” DeMarea said. “They were physical. They did what they do best. They come at you.”

The big defensive play for the Yellow Jackets came early in the fourth quarter when a Briggs pass over the middle hit off the fingertips of D.J. Jordan and into the hands of Rachaad White for the interception.

“Our sophomore defensive backs played well,” DeLong said. “That play changed the momentum. The crowd really started getting into it.”

White returned the ball to the Celtic 25-yard line and five plays later, thanks in large part to a 21-yard run by Caldwell, DeMarcus Burns found the end zone from 3 yards out to make it 21-9 after the failed two-point conversion.

“You look across the line and you see them get down,” Caldwell said of the momentum shift early in the fourth quarter.

That final touchdown would be enough for the Center defense, as both teams moved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the race for the West Central Conference title.

O’Hara will look to get back to winning on the road against Warrensburg.

“We have to rebound. I hope we don’t take this as a negative and instead learn from it,” DeMarea said.

Caldwell said the key for the Yellow Jackets is to not get overconfident going into next week’s game against Sedalia Smith-Cotton, something he said they did earlier in the year against St. Pius X.

“When you talk about Pius, we got cocky,” he said. “We have to have a hard week of practice and go and do what we do.”