Raiders win 55-54 thriller

By Daron Barefoot - Sports Writer

Carson Calcutt catches a pass and cuts upfield.

Fans of Midway and Princeton got more than they bargained for on Friday night as the Raiders and Bulldogs squared off in Spivey’s Corner in week two football action. Both teams were coming off victories in week one, setting up what would be a wild night at Raider Stadium. After an electrifying game that found Midway down by two scores on multiple occasions, the Raiders rallied to steal a 55-54 victory over the visiting Bulldogs.

Midway would get things started on the opening drive, starting on their own 35-yard line, and relying on an aerial attack to move the ball down the field. The Raiders capped the drive off, scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run by Jake Clark. After converting the PAT, Midway would lead 7-0 with 8:33 left in quarter number one.

The lead didn’t last long. Following the ensuing kickoff, Princeton’s Earl Gibson exploded down the field for a 65-yard touchdown run of his own. The PAT was successful and the game was tied a mere eight seconds later with 8:24 remaining.

Each team would trade possessions to end the quarter with things all tied up, 7-7.

This is when things got interesting. Following a Midway punt, Princeton was back on offense, setting up on their own 16-yard line to begin the series. This series was brief, however, as Princeton’s Matthew Stallworth stormed 84 yards down field for another score. The PAT was blocked, but the Bulldogs now led 13-7 with 10:43 remaining in the half.

Things went from bad to worse for the Raiders after quarterback Austin Raynor’s pass attempt was intercepted. A few plays later, the Bulldogs cashed in, scoring once again and converting the point after, pushing their lead to 20-7 with 7:48 now remaining in the half.

Midway responded, and in a big way. The madness begin as the Raiders capped off an 11-play, 64-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Raynor to Dashawn Tonge. Midway converted the PAT, cutting the deficit to 20-14 with 4:28 left in the half.

Princeton was unable to possess the ball on the ensuing kickoff which lead to Midway’s Colby Pope recovering the kick to set the Raiders up on the Princeton 37-yard line. One play later, Raynor connected with Pope on a 37-yard pass play for the tying touchdown. The game remained tied after an errant snap resulted in a failed PAT, but Midway was right back in it, having tied the game at 20-20 with 4:12 remaining in the half.

The chaos continued as Princeton gave the ball right back to Midway on another muffed kickoff. This time it was Carson Calcutt coming up with the recovery to get the Raiders right back in business to the Bulldog 39-yard line. Again, Midway found pay dirt, capping off a 3-play series on touchdown pass from Raynor to Sha’King Warren. The PAT was successful and Midway was now on top 27-20 with 3:08 remaining in the half.

The kickoff woes continued but this time it was Princeton that was the beneficiary, as the Bulldogs returned the ensuing kickoff 60 yards for the touchdown. The PAT was successful and the game was tied once more, 27-27. That would be the halftime score.

The craziness continued into the second half. The action picked right back up as Princeton took the second play from scrimmage 61-yards for another touchdown. The extra point was missed, but the Bulldogs were back ahead 33-27 early in the third.

Midway would go three and out on the next drive, setting Princeton back up on offense on their own 18-yard line. Following a holding penalty, Derrick Loftis recovered a Princeton fumble on the Bulldog 6-yard line. Two plays later, Raynor connected with Tonge once more for the 7-yard touchdown pass. Midway would convert the PAT and reclaim the 34-33 lead.

After forcing the Bulldogs to punt, Midway found themselves in the midst of a promising drive deep into Bulldog territory. Unfortunately, Raynor fumbled the ball following a sack. The Bulldogs recovered, thwarting Midway’s plans of extending their lead.

It took one play for Princeton to make Midway pay, as the Bulldogs broke it open on yet another long rushing touchdown, this time going 75 yards. The 2-point conversion was successful and Princeton was now back on top 41-34 with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter.

Princeton held Midway to 3-and-out to take back over on their own 42-yard line. Once again, Midway surrendered a long run play – 58 yards – for another touchdown and PAT conversion. 2:48 remained in the third quarter with Princeton now ahead by two scores, 48-34.

Like clockwork, the pesky Raiders responded, as Jake Clark busted free for a 61-yard rushing touchdown of his own with 2:31 remaining in the third. Midway converted the PAT and was right back in the game, trailing 48-41.

On the ensuing Princeton drive, things went even further downhill for the Bulldogs as they fumbled the ball right back to Midway. Caleb Horne came up the huge recovery for the Raiders with 2:23 remaining in the quarter, setting Midway up on the Princeton 41-yard line.

It took them less than a minute to tie things up, as Clark found the end zone once again, scampering in from 13 yards out. After the successful PAT, the third quarter would come to a close with the game tied, 48-48.

Each team traded possessions through the first half of the fourth quarter. After putting together their longest-drive of the game in terms of duration, Princeton was faced with a modest fourth down attempt. The Bulldogs converted and with 3:52 remaining, scored the go-ahead touchdown. The Princeton coaching staff elected to roll the dice, setting up the 2-pt conversion attempt. It failed, and the Bulldogs only lead 54-48.

The Raider offense, just as it had all game, came through. With 3:38 left on the clock, the Raiders took over on their own 30-yard line. With 58.6 seconds left, Raynor found Calcutt on a post pattern, and Calcutt sprinted 42 yards for the game-tying touchdown. Brian Lucas converted the go-ahead PAT, giving Midway the lead at 55-54.

Midway’s defense stepped up and stopped Princeton at midfield to seal the victory, much to the satisfaction of the jubilant Raider faithful.

In the postgame, Raider head coach Jason Fussell spoke from a mixed bag of emotions.

“We shot ourselves in the foot plenty, but at times our offense was really good. Austin and the receivers really did a great job and got us some big pass plays. Our offensive and defensive lines have got to get better, but this is a good win.”

Offensively for Midway, the Raiders had 215 total rushing yards on 41 carries. Clark led the way with 13 carries for 107 yards. Warren had 10 carries for 46 yards. In the passing game, Raynor went 12-for-25, accumulating 201 yards passing, five touchdowns, one interception, and one fumble. Loftis and Clark led Midway defensively, with Loftis recording six tackles and Clark recording five.

Midway will be back in action next week, hitting the road for the first of several consecutive away games. The Raiders will be at Rosewood on Thursday night. That game is set for 7 p.m.

Carson Calcutt catches a pass and cuts upfield. Calcutt catches a pass and cuts upfield.

By Daron Barefoot

Sports Writer

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