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Tigers fall after mounting ‘epic’ comeback

Arlington wide receiver Jorge Avalos braces for impact with Cordova defender Bryian Sullivan. Photo by Kevin Lewter.

Arlington wide receiver Jorge Avalos braces for impact with Cordova defender Bryian Sullivan. Photo by Kevin Lewter.

With Cordova leading 42-27 over Arlington, Cordova Head Coach Anthony Jones told his team at halftime that something crazy was going to happen.

It certainly did.

Roaring back from a 56-27 deficit, Arlington outscored the Wolves 36-9 to pull within 65-63 with 6:24 left in the game, before Cordova’s  Jeremy Banks scored his seventh touchdown of the night, giving Cordova a 72-63 victory on Friday.

“You don’t even want this score playing video games,” said Jones. “When you got Arlington over there and you got a quarterback like Tate Kolwyck and the coaching staff like Coach (Adam) Sykes, they are very talented. Tate Kolwyck is arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the state of Tennessee, which he proved tonight. They have got a lot of great talent and a lot of great seniors. They displayed it. It was tough. We had to battle through it and fight through it and overcome some adversity but we kept our composure in the end.”

The victory provided Cordova’s first region championship in school history.

The Wolves (7-2, 3-0 in Region 7-6A) have also beaten contender Collierville, who hosts Arlington (6-3, 2-1) at 7 p.m. this Friday for second place and home field advantage for the playoffs.

The game was also one of the highest scoring in the state. Cordova came within two points of Knoxville Fulton’s 74 during its 2013 season when the Falcons finished with 862 points. The state record for points in a game was set in 1926 when Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett defeated North Burton, Virginia, 193-0. Cordova, who plays at Bartlett at 7 p.m. this Friday, has scored 470 points this season, the most in the state.

“I don’t think I have been a part of a game like this before,” said Sykes. “I was telling the guys after the game I have never been more proud of a team after a loss.”

He continued, “They had every chance in the world to lay down and quit. When they got down four touchdowns, they fought their way back and put us back in the game and gave us a chance to win. It shows the character of our guys right now and good senior leadership. I kept telling them to believe. You never know, the ball might bounce your way, get a couple of good plays for touchdowns and the momentum starts going and the guys start believing and before you know it, it is a three point-game (59-56 with 7:24 left).”

Sykes also said, “It is very disappointing because I want these guys to go out on their Senior Nights as winners. We weren’t able to do that tonight, but overall as a team it is a character-building process and I was proud of them. I have never seen a score like that in regulation that I have been a part of, but we have got to rebound and get ready for Collierville.”

A senior with 27 college offers, Banks’ seven touchdowns were a career high as well as his 429 yards rushing. Banks (6-2, 210) had rushed for 231 yards by halftime and had four touchdowns. After the Tigers had closed to within 65-63, Banks ran 41 yards for his last touchdown with 1:46 left to seal the victory.

“I was just running,” Banks said. “We blew a big lead but it was the turning point in the fourth quarter when we had to turn it around and put our foot on the gas and mash it to the floor.”

He added that staying patient and his faith contributed to his game.

“I put it in God’s hands. You have got to have a lot of faith. I have a lot of faith when it is dealing with God so I go with the flow, stay calm and fight through adversity. I told my O (offensive)-line to keep pushing and I told the defense to keep pushing and I told them God has a plan and we continued to fight.”

He had 30 carries against Arlington.

Banks had scored 21 touchdowns in seven games, averaging 188.90 yards per game, 9.4 yards per carry, 1,322 yards on 141 attempts. His yardage total was second in Shelby-Metro.

“We knew their offense is really, really explosive,” said Sykes. “We knew that Banks is a really good player and he proved it tonight that he could be a big-time player later on after high school. He is so hard to tackle because of his size and once he gets by you, he has got the speed to not get caught.”

Arlington wide receiver Caleb Nelson said, “That dude is amazing. He is a one-of-a-kind athlete. I don’t even know what to say about him.”

Said Jones, “He ran like Jeremy Banks tonight. Not just him, the offensive line did a great job. It was gut-check time for those guys. He will be the first to tell you that definitely it’s his offensive line (Jerome Carvin, Herman Joseph, Terrance Washington, Martavius Tate and Hosea Whitefield) and the quarterback Christian Arrambide that got us in some good plays. He was excited about that.”

Kolwyck entered the game second in passing. He had thrown for 2,084 yards on 109 of 198 completions in eight games, a 260.50-yard per game average and a Shelby-Metro high 25 touchdowns.

Against Cordova, Kolwyck, who has been the starting quarterback since he was a freshman, completed 18 of 32 passes for 446 yards and five touchdowns. Nelson caught four passes for 151 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown. Kenneth Walker III caught seven passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Walker had a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that pulled the Tigers within 65-63.

Hunter Goodman caught two passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. Devin Chandler caught five passes for 80 yards and scored two touchdowns.

Kolwyck finished with 477 yards total offense.

Sykes said, “Tonight is a microcosm of what he has done here the past four years. He finds a way to make plays. Our team feeds off his play and his abilities. Overall away from the football field, his character and how he carries himself is the biggest thing I am most proud of.”

Jones was proud of his quarterback Arrambide, a senior who is in his first year as a starter. Arrambide had thrown 23 touchdowns in eight games, completed 100 of 180 passes for 1,664 yards with an average of 208 yards per game. Arrambide completed 13 of 20 passes against the Tigers for 234 yards and threw three touchdown passes to Kobe Powell.

Powell scored on receptions of 39 yards in the first quarter, 55 in the second that gave the Wolves the lead for good at 28-21, 56 yards in the third quarter. He finished with 182 yards on seven receptions, averaging 26 yards per catch. Travis Green had one reception for 26 yards.

“He has done an outstanding job for us,” said Jones of Arrambide’s play this season. “My quarterback played well and Kobe Powell played well. Those guys did an outstanding job (against Arlington).”

Arrambide (6-2, 180) credited Jones and his staff for “great calls.”

“They all make a great game. Jeremy had a great game,” he said. “I am glad he helped us win, My O-line is the one who had to make it roll.”

Composure is what helped the Wolves win, said Arrambide as he watched his team’s lead evaporate.

“We came together as a team and responded. I think Coach Jones said it right with the word ‘sacrifice.’ We played for one another and sacrificed for each other. I am pretty excited we won the district championship. I was happy and sad, it’s my senior year. We have six more games left,” said Arrambide, expecting the Wolves to play for the state championship.

Going down the alphabet, the Wolves have a word of the week. “Sacrifice” was the word for Arlington. Last week it was relentless.

Arlington senior linebacker Logan Feathers was relentless in his pursuit of Banks. He had seven tackles making crucial third down stops.

“We kept sending me on a blitz. I got more and more pumped after every hit and I was asking for more. I wanted it. I was ready to show them that their running bank was not going to be able to stop me,” said Feathers. “I knew Cordova was tough. We have been talking about their running back (Banks) all week. We have been putting up a fight against everybody. I think a big reason is our senior leadership. It’s been amazing. We were really good at a young age. We have a love for football. We gave our all. We always give our all. We are not the biggest. We are not the fastest but we definitely have heart.”

Nelson said, “Logan stuffed Banks every once in a while. That was clutch.”

Feathers said that he was playing for Austin Spicer, a teammate who would have been a senior this season but died March 28, 2016. His twin brother, Clayton Spicer, is a senior running back/linebacker for the Tigers.

“I was motivated by my team. I have a lot of drive. It was Senior Night. I was playing for my friend Austin who died last year,” said Feathers, who was impacted by Clayton before the game and at halftime. “When we came in after warm ups, I saw Clayton in there crying after the seniors went out. After seeing that, it hit me. He (Austin) could have been a part of it.”

There were tears after the game.

“Some of us did. They were crying, especially the seniors, because this was the last night we played on the field or could be. We picked them up. We said it’s not the field that makes the team. It’s the team that makes the field. When we rallied, we got their hopes and spirits up.”

Nelson, who prints on his wrist tape the letters and signs that mean “God is greater than your highs and lows,” said after the epic battle, “If you win, you give God the glory. If you lose, you give God the glory. Tonight we lost but He gave us the ability to play and I thank Him for that. He kept me safe.”

With the Tigers trailing 72-63, Nelson caught a pass on the Cordova 36-yard line with 1:34 left. Hit from behind, he fumbled. The Wolves recovered and then ran out the clock.

“It was heartbreaking. I felt like I let my team down but I have just got to bounce back up and keep my head in it. I was hurting. It was a really good game. I can’t complain about it. I never would have thought that many points would be scored in a high school ball game. It was easily the highest scoring game I have ever seen.”

Sykes praised Nelson for an outstanding game.

“He fought his tail off. He had a great game. Trying to make a turn and go up field and make another score, they hit it from behind and he lost the ball. I don’t fault his effort at all. He was trying to make a play for his team to keep us in the ball game. You have to secure the ball but I am not disappointed in him at all. We had a lot of guys who played their tails off.”

Said Nelson, “I am not a quitter. I am not going to lay down because somebody is beating me. Life is about getting knocked down and getting right back up.”

He continued, “I think we are starting to mature as a team and as a program. We are not laying our heads down. We are staying upbeat because you can do big things and win a state championship. We never let our emotions get the best of us. We never let the situation get the best of us. The score could be 100-0 and we still have a chance as long as there is time on the clock.”

The Tigers had an excellent defensive game from Tanner Magowan, who had seven tackles.

“He is amazing, He is highly underrated. He did great,” said Nelson.

The Tigers were also led by Cezanne Bush with seven tackles. Ethan Asher had four, Calvin Robertson three. Alex Salas had a sack.

“Cezanne Bush, Devin Chandler, Caleb Nelson, Tate Kolwyck, Kenny Walker, I could go on and on,” said Feathers. “Everybody was a playmaker.”

Asher said, “I had a couple of breakthroughs to the line and a couple of tackles. We made a few stops and then again we didn’t.  It’s all a mindset, if you are tough enough. If your mindset is determined enough, then you can do anything.”

It was the longest kickoff return in Walker’s career.

A junior, Walker said, “It wasn’t all me. I give all my credit to God. I thank Him every day for everything he does for me and my teammates. If it wasn’t for my teammates I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do.”

He said that he doesn’t remember what he was thinking as he was running toward the end zone. “I am just glad I made it.”

Cordova took a 7-0 lead on Banks’ 51-yard touchdown run. Parker Nelson kicked the PAT, which would be his first of eight. A 6-yard pass from Kolwyck to Chandler got the Tigers to within 7-6 with 8:27 left. Conner Ford then kicked his first of seven extra points.

Another 51-yard touchdown run by Banks put the Wolves ahead 14-7 with 6:43 left. Kolwyck’s 77-yard touchdown pass to Nelson with 3:47 left tied the game at 14 with 3:47 left in the first quarter.

Arrambide then hit Powell with a 39-yard touchdown pass with 2:21 left, and it was 21-14.

Walker’s 4-yard touchdown tied the game at 21 with 11:53 left in the second quarter. Another Arrambide to Powell TD went for 55 yards, and Cordova led 28-21 with 10:34 left in the second quarter. A 33-yard touchdown run by Banks put Cordova on top 35-21 with 5:35 left.

A 46-yard pass from Kolwyck to Nelson set up the Tigers’ fourth touchdown, a 30-yard touchdown pass to Chandler. Arlington trailed 35-27. With 10.5 seconds left before halftime Banks scored on an 8-yard run for a 42-27 lead.

It took Cordova 54 seconds into the second half to expand its lead. Arrambide threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Powell, and it was 49-27.

Asa Bonner’s partial block of an Arlington punt put the Wolves on the Tiger 33-yard line. After a holding penalty, Banks ran 45 yards for a touchdown with 8:31 left in the third quarter. Cordova led 56-27.

Then the rally started. Kolwyck threw a 24-yard first down pass to Walker at the Cordova 25. Koiwyck then threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Goodman, and it was 56-34 with 5:56 left in the third.

A 36-yard field goal by Parker Nelson upped Cordova’s lead to 59-34. The Tigers set up a scoring drive that was fueled by Kolwyck’s 33-yard pass to Walker.

Kolwyck then hit Walker for a 16-yard touchdown pass, and it was 59-41 with 11:50 left in the fourth.

An interception by Bush put the Tigers on Cordova’s 28-yard line. A 1-yard run by Walker cut the lead to 59-47. Kolwyck’s two-point conversion pass to Caleb Nelson got the Tigers to within 59-49 with 9:10 left to play.

The Tigers then went 78 yards to score. Kolwyck’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Walker cut it to 59-56 with 7:24 left.

“I don’t even remember the game being 59-56,” said Jones. “I was just trying to get out of here with a win. They rattled off two quick touchdowns in the third quarter and we were just stalling on offense a little bit. We just wanted to find a way to win the game, and thank God we did.”

Said Sykes of the rally, “It’s leadership. Our seniors are really good leaders. They kept everybody’s head up on the sideline even though we were down 25 or 28, whatever it was. Once you get a big play or two and start getting momentum and everybody feeds off each other and that is what happened.”

Caleb Nelson said, “We have been working on this stuff since January. The coaches have been hammering on us and these seniors have a legacy of championships. We won four championships growing up, fourth through seventh grade. We were unstoppable. We know what it takes to win and what it takes to keep driving and fighting.”

Banks, who averaged 13.9 yards per carry, then found his way for an 82-yard touchdown run, and Cordova led 65-56 with 6:38 left.

Caleb Nelson then blocked Parker Nelson’s PAT.

It took the Tigers 14 seconds to score. Walker ran the length of the field and with 6:24 left, Arlington pulled within 65-63.

Banks’ 41-yard touchdown run came with 1:46 left and the Wolves hung on for the nine-point victory.

Jones said, “We have to get ready for a really good, much-improved Bartlett team. We have to make sure that we are ready to go.”

The Wolves worked their spread-tempo no-huddle offense to the fullest.

“We primarily go four receivers, one back but we will jump to two-back/three-receiver type things,” said Jones. “Our seniors have done an unbelievable job of anchoring and paving the way. We are young. We have a lot guys embracing the starting role for the first time. We had a senior-heavy team last year. “

The Wolves had 234 yards passing, 517 yards rushing for a total of 751. Behind Banks, Kameron Graham had six rushes for 36 yards

Arlington had 74 yards rushing and 462 passing for a total of 536.

The Wolves were paced by a 4-3 defense led by middle linebacker Tracy Williams, Cailen Jones, Bonner, Bryian Sullivan and D.J. Luckett. Wide receiver Jacolby Hewitt has committed to play at Indiana. Carvin has not committed but has been recruited by Mississippi State and Alabama.

The night started with Caleb Nelson’s mother, Emily Nelson, singing the National Anthem.

“It was touching,” said Caleb. “It was a good way to start the game. I am just proud of my team. That (Tigers) is the best team in the state. I don’t care what anybody says.”

Said Asher, “Even though we didn’t win it is still a positive game. We are still a brotherhood.”

Feathers said the team bonded over the loss. “I think it showed people we are here to stay for sure.”

Said Sykes, “Statistically it might look great but at the end of the day all that matters is that scoreboard. I hated it for the seniors.”


BILL SORRELL is a freelance writer for The Bartlett Express and other Journal West 10 Media LLC publications. Contact him at billsorrell@att.net.

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