North Callaway finds scoring options and defeats Wright City 44-27
The look of the game changed in the second half on Friday of North Callaway’s 44-27 home win over Wright City.
The Thunderbirds (4-2, 4-1 EMO) were able to bounce back from two straight losses dominating the line, with 314 rushing yards and three sacks – all from senior Manny Moreno.
Head coach Travis Blevins said his squad had started slowly in the previous weeks and this week was no exception, thanks to poor communication, but North Callaway was able to get back to what she had so well done earlier in the season in the second half: dominate at the line of scrimmage. The Thunderbirds compiled 199 rushing yards in the second half while scoring four of their touchdowns.
North Callaway’s optional offense coming to life in the second half helped that effort, Blevins said. Junior quarterback Braydn O’Neal, who finished with 135 rushing yards leading the team in seven carries, escaped for big runs demonstrated it and made the Wildcat defense worry to defend someone other than Moreno’s tandem and senior Trevor Ray.
“We had the option for the first time this year, which helped a lot of people,” Blevins said. “It takes time. O’Neal had a great game tonight and we had a great blockage in the second half. In the first half, we didn’t line up in the right lines, and the games that I sent were not the games we ran. We were making these mental mistakes that we made before, but we will continue to work on it. “
The teams traded six picks to tie the game at 6 as O’Neal threw one for 47 yards, then Wright City (1-5, 1-3 EMO) threw a 61-yard senior. Payton Olsson, who led the Thunderbirds Reception Corps.
The Wildcat athletes then had the chance to run and received catches from 22 and 33 yards. Thunderbird’s defense pushed some back, but Wright City managed to score from 20 yards on a drive that lasted 10 games and ate up a precious clock, making it 14-6.
The Thunderbirds didn’t hang around for long on their 64-yard three-play command that saw O’Neal run for 55 yards to the 5-yard line. Ray – who finished with 111 yards on 22 carries – scored it in the next game to make it 14-13.
North Callaway was injured again while fumbling for a punt, giving Wright City a short field. A few short passes before the Wildcats squeezed between the tackles and Wright City’s Jeremiah Davis would ultimately give Wright City a 21-14 halftime lead.
The second half got more explosive as North Callaway surpassed their first half to third quarter points tally. The passing lanes would still be closed for O’Neal, but the expressways were not as he was extending more runs with his legs.
On several occasions, Wright City quarterback Joey Gendron was on the run or was hit in the backfield, which can make a quarterback feel uncomfortable and less successful on down throws like the Wildcats were able to do it in the first half, Blevins said.
“We did it up front, especially in the second half,” he said. “Their guys played on us. It is very simple. As a quarterback, it’s no fun when you get hit a lot. It gets you out of the ball earlier and not as well as you did.
Wright City would not change their strategy in the third and would continue to pitch it. The ball, however, was thrown into the hands of junior Matthew Webber, who acted like a catcher and darted in front of the ball, and returned it for 12 yards. Ray capped the short run with another 5-yard touchdown to make 22-21 North Callaway.
The Thunderbirds hit a 72-yard touchdown by Davis as O’Neal ran for free for 32 yards, then brought him into the red zone before throwing him to Moreno for more. Moreno then scored from 8 yards to restore the Thunderbirds lead to 30-27 after three quarters.
Blevins said play up front on the Thunderbirds’ defensive side was key to this game, as was especially the case in the fourth and 1 save which set up a short field at North Callaway and the second touchdown. de Moreno at 23 yards which gave the Thunderbirds a 38-27 lead.
“We just kept them in front of us,” Blevins said. “(Wright City) cheated us on a forward touchdown on the same play, but we had a penetration and touched them in the backfield. It was a big play.”
It was quiet on the perimeter but noisy up front as North Callaway continued to club the Wright City line as Ray scored from 18 yards after breaking a plethora of tackles for his third touchdown to make the game out of reach .
North Callaway will play their last regular season road game this week against Mark Twain (6-1, 4-1 EMO).