As Caldwell County's De'Eric Hollowell put it best in the postgame huddle, "that's how you play football."
A 17-0 first quarter deficit. Gone, in the blink of an eye.
Murray High's hopes of a first round home playoff game? Gone, in the blink of an eye.
These two Tiger teams had not crossed paths since 2014, but the Caldwell County Tigers were tasked with spoiling Murray High's senior night on Friday in Week 9 at legendary Ty Holland Stadium, and erasing a poor first half start. Caldwell did just that with a 28-3 run in a 42-40 instant classic win over the black and gold Tigers Friday night.
Staggered and stunned, Murray High will have to take the film from the night and their lessons with an extra level of precaution, as this might very well be an early round playoff matchup next month with Caldwell County wrapping up home field advantage at Tiger Stadium in Princeton in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, the Tigers have two weeks to celebrate this one as they now enter their bye week in Week 10 before heading to Trigg County for the regular season finale.
"We grew up tonight," Caldwell County Head Coach Waynee McGowan said. "Our backs were against the walls down 17-0, nothing was going good for us. It looked really rough. We just didn't quit man, we just didn't quit. A lot of grit. A lot of fight in their kids. These kids proved that they can play some football with a very good football team in this atmosphere with the magnitude of this football game and they stepped up tonight."
Baron Wells finished with 130 yards in his six kickoff returns.
De'Eric Hollowell scored four touchdowns on the ground (three in a row) and while quarterback Russ Beshear (5-for-5 early on) was doing his job, Tripp Branch and Tate VanHooser hauled in the biggest catches of the night when Caldwell needed it most.
Caldwell County (7-2) has now won two of their last three games since their three game winning streak in September.
Murray High (6-2) had won six straight since their opening night loss to Graves County.
It had been five years since the Class 2A State Tournament third round where Murray High advanced 47-28 over Caldwell to the state semifinals against DeSales, and while this one wasn't the playoffs, it certainly felt like it Friday.
In the previous seasons in 2012 and 2013, the two clubs faced each other twice per season (once in the playoffs and once in the regular season).
The last season series between Murray and Caldwell ran from 2007-2013 in a series that Murray High won six of the 11 games played during that span, including two of the three playoff games.
Murray High quarterback Hunter Utley (27 TD pass completions so far this season) passed the 2000-passing yard plateau for the season, but Hollowell and the Tigers simply stole the show.
Caldwell County would take the first possession of the night but it wasn't the start they anticipated at all, as the Tigers had to punt on a three and out.
Meanwhile, Murray High just missed on a connection from Utley to Jorden Duffy on their first possession, but would draw first blood on a 39-yard field goal from the trusty Noah Merris (34-for-36 on the season coming into the night) for a 3-0 Murray High start with 7:41 remaining in the opening frame.
Hollowell had a nice run on the second possession, but the Murray defense came up big again to force another punt after Caldwell secured a first down.
Utley found Tommy Waldrop on a senior to senior connection for a 70-yard TD score as lightning struck in a bottle for Murray High at 10-0 with just eight minutes gone by in the game.
In an up and down pace, Murray continued to control it all, upping their advantage to 17-0 with a fourth down gamble at the goal line where Duffy punched in a four-yard score with 8:07 remaining in the first half.
Caldwell County grabbed a rare first down opportunity midway through the second quarter, and VanHooser capitalized on a 40-yard TD score from besmear with 7:34 remaining in the first half to get the Tigers on the board down 17-7.
Caldwell County had proven that they could get down the field and score, but would their defense respond and get the necessary stops?
Max Ashley would hold Murray High to a 28-yard field goal from Merriss with 5:53 remaining in the half down 20-7.
Baron Wells got inside the 10-yard line as the Tigers continued to move the ball well as the game went on, and Hollowell punched in a six yard TD to get Caldwell County within 20-14 with two minutes left in the half.
After Caldwell's biggest defensive stand of the first half (in part to VanHooser's third down tackle), the Tigers had a chance to take their first lead before halftime, but an interception intended for Wells in the final seconds would force Caldwell to settle for their 20-14 halftime deficit.
Hollowell would score all three third quarter TDs for Caldwell to flip the game on its head completely.
Murray High looked to keep Caldwell County from inching any closer to the lead early in the third frame, but nothing was stopping Hollowell from taking the first lead for Caldwell at 21-20 with a short TD punch with 8:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Hollowell did it again from nine yards out on the next possession for a 28-20 Caldwell advantage.
Murray High would not lead again the rest of the night.
Caldwell got back to back stops for the first time of the evening in the third quarter, but Murray High got within one when Charvelle McCallister reached inside the goalie from four years out to trim their first deficit of the night back to 28-27.
Again, Hollowell had the proper response, as a 60 yard kickoff return by Wells set up Hollowell's fourth straight touchdown (this one from two yards out) to keep Caldwell County up 35-27 in the final minute of the third frame.
All of a sudden, it was Caldwell County with the ace up their sleeve, but this tango rightfully went down to the wire.
Utley would find Duffey 38 yards in the air for a score to cut Caldwell's lead back to 35-34 in the early moments of the fourth as a call and response affair continued.
Caldwell County would get a significant stop on the Murray offense midway through the fourth quarter to regain possession to try and add to their brittle one point lead, and VanHooser came up with by far the biggest catch of the night at the time on a third down and 17 with a 39-yard catch for a fresh set of downs to get inside the final three minutes.
Then, Branch came up with one catch bigger, hauling in the final score of the night from Beshear to put Caldwell County up 42-34 with under two minutes to play.
Needing 81 yards, a touchdown and a two point conversion, Murray High would get only the valiant last effort score from Utley with 50 seconds remaining, as the attempt to tie was taken away by Max Ashley, as Caldwell County wrapped up home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, in which it is very likely these two clubs will soon meet again.
STATS RECAP Week 9 Box Score
CALDWELL COUNTY 42, MURRAY 40
Caldwell Co. 0 14 21 7 - 42
Murray 10 10 7 13 - 40
M: Noah Merriss 39-yard FG GOOD, 3-0, 3:50 1Q
M: Tommy Waldrop 70-yard pass from Utley (Noah Merriss PAT GOOD) 10-0, 3:50 1Q
M: Jorden Duffy 4-yard score (Noah Merriss PAT GOOD) 17-0, 8:07 2Q
C: Tate VanHooser 42-yard score from Beshear (Blake Vivrette PAT GOOD) 17-7, 7:34 2Q
M: Noah Merriss 28-yard FG GOOD, 20-7 5:57 2Q
C: DeEric Hollowell 6-yard run (Vivrette PAT GOOD) 20-14, 3:02 2Q
C: DeEric Hollowell 1-yard run (PAT GOOD) 21-20, 8:48 3Q
C:DeEric Hollowell 9-yard TD (PAT GOOD) 28-20, 4:58 3Q
M:Charvelle McCallister 4-yard run (PAT GOOD) 28-27, 2:47 3Q
C:DeEric Hollowell 2-yard TD (PAT GOOD) 35-27, 1:24 3Q
M: Jorden Duffy 38-yard pass from Hunter Utley (PAT GOOD) 35-34, 10:47 4Q
C:Tripp Branch from Beshear (2-pt conversion GOOD) 42-34, 2:16 4Q
M: Hunter Utley 7-yard touchdown (2-pt conversion NO good) 42-40 :48 4Q