Lone Star Gridiron

McCallum Continues Cinderella Run

Knights Down Wildcats 20-7

In the first of three games at the Alamodome in San Antonio, the Corpus Christi Calallen Wildcats faced off against the Austin McCallum Knights and the state's #6 leading rusher Alex Julian who entered the game  with 2,282 yards. The prize? The Class 5A DII Region IV title. The Knights didn't need all the space provided by the Alamodome as the arrived with less fans than any team I have seen this late in the playoffs. The Calallen side was shoulder to shoulder and standing most the game.

The teams couldn't be less alike in the way they took the field. Calallen entered in silence, walking in single-file to line up across the 35 and 40 yard line. The McCallum Knights came in with the roar of fans and to the sounds of The Eyes of Texas.

Calallen started with the ball at their own 46 yard line and were able to do nothing against the Knights' defense. McCallum took over in great field position and started things with a bang when Alexander Julian rumbled down to the Calallen 31 on the first play and then took it the remaining 31 on the second for the 7-0 score with 9:47 to go in the first.

Calallen again was stunned by the McCallum defense when they only managed to go backward before punting the ball away. Again, McCallum started in excellent field position (their 47.) Again their running attack gashed the Wildcats. Max Perez for 14. Deron Gage for a dozen. The drive was capped at 5:50 in the 1st by an Ian Carson 37 yard field goal and a 10-0 lead.

Corpus Christi Calallen stuck with their run game and finally managed to spring a runner for a first down but an illegal block negated the run and backed them 2-20 at their 11. A quick pass from Colton Duff to Joel Garza made it 3rd and 9, but they were unable to convert once again. Their third punt of the first quarter left McCallum once again in great field position (their 44.)

The Knights were unable to repeat earlier success however going 3 and out. After punt however, Calallen fumbled on their first play giving McCallum the ball on the Wildcat 30. Quarterback Max Perez did some hard running to get them to 1st and goal at the 6 to end the first quarter.

On the other side of the field, Perez ran up the gut for what appeared to be a near-TD but fumbled the ball into a Calallen defender's hand and they took over at their own 20 finally with something resembling momentum. That spark was quickly snuffed out by the swarming McCallum defense that forced them to punt again.

Despite starting at their own 47 for the third time in this game already, the Knights were stopped again and punted the ball away to the Calallen 11 yard line. With 9:13 to go in the half, the Wildcats again tried to get something started. The Knights would have none of that as their defense again smothered all attempts to run or pass.  The ball went back to McCallum on the punt - this time at the Wildcat 44.

Looking as if they were stopped again, Max Perez scrambled on 3rd and long to setup a 4th an 1 at the 35. The conversion was good for more than a first down as Perez ran untouched up the middle for the 35 yards and a score. With 5:40 left in the half, McCallum's lead was 17-0. At this point, the much smaller crowd of Knights fans drowned out the stunned and silent Wildcat fans.

Calallen began the drive with the scoreboard and field position against them. There was no letup however by the McCallum defense and the Wildcats again punted. The muffed return however, put the ball on the turf and Reid Wilson recovered at the 42 for Calallen giving them  new life. Colton Duff took the snap and rounded the corner to the left for a 20 yard gain and Wildcat ball in the redzone for the first time.  The celebration ended quickly as McCallum came out after a timeout to snuff out the drive and regain control at their own 8.

With 1:37 to go in the half, the Knights were not content to simply burn clock. Deron Gage rambled up to the 42 on first down and then to the Calallen 34 on the next carry. Julien added 6 and then Perez carried, changing directions for another first down at the 13. Julien brought them to the 10 with 10 second remaining in the half before the Knights called their final time out to bring in the kicking team. The 21 yard field goal made it 20-0 at the break.

The 'Cats came out of the break determined to turn things around but had to start by finding a way to stop the Knights. McCallum started the 3rd quarter at their 36. The Wildcats' D stepped up big forcing the 3 and out and forcing a punt.  The result of the punt was an injured player - a targeting ejection - a display of classless back-and-forth comments by parents for both teams - and a first down for Calallen at their 38.

Alec Brown led the way running for a couple of big gains and then Colton Duff faked it to him and ran along the left sideline for the first Calallen score. 20-7 McCallum with 7:19 remaining in the third. Finally, momentum was heading the Wildcats way and they followed it up by pinning McCallum to their 23 on the kickoff.

The Knights were unable to get anything going as the swarming Wildcat defense combined with the deafening fanbase forced another punt. Once again the Calallen punt returner failed to call for a fair catch as was smashed as catching the punt. The punt was called back for an illegal shift and they kicked again. This time it was a very short one and Calallen took over with just 45 yards to go for a score.

Wanting to continue clawing back into the game, Corpus Christi managed only to ignite the McCallum defense. Facing 4th and 10 the Wildcats punted down to the 10 yard line. The Knights looked stopped again but a pass interference call against Calallen gave them a first down at the 28. It was for naught however as Gage put the ball on the turf two plays later and Seth Kelley recovered for Calallen. Once again, the formula was Brown and Duff carrying the ball as the clock sent the teams into the fourth quarter with McCallum leading 20-7 and Calallen driving. The Cats closed the drive when 4th and 2 on the 14, they came up short and the Knights took over.

The Knights were unable to get much going so punted the ball away. Calallen took over this time at the 32 thanks to a partially blocked punt.  A few plays later the Wildcats were facing 4th and 3 at the 7.  The quarterback sneak behind the huge offensive line came up about four inches short. McCallum averted disaster and took over at their 5 with just over 3 minutes remaining in the game.

In the shadow of their own endzone, the Knights were content to run the ball up the middle and burn clock before punting the ball away with 2:03 to go and a 13 point lead. With just 1:29 remaining Calallen's final drive went nowhere.

The Knights continued to shock folks around the state as their historic record grew to 14-0. Austin McCallum moves on to face the winner of Fort Bend Marshall and College Station in the Semifinals.

by Chris Doelle


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