LIVE OAK — It wasn’t always pretty and there were certainly some mistakes Thursday night. But when Kalle Herring hauled in a shovel pass from Maci Campbell and extended her arms into the Langford Stadium end zone to lift the Suwannee High flag football team to a double-overtime win, all that was forgotten.
“There’s nothing like starting it off by stressing the coaches out,” SHS coach Ricky Hufty said with a laugh after the Bulldogs won their home opener and the first regular season game in program history.
“We just told them we’re proud of the way they fought. Things didn’t go our way the whole night. We hurt ourselves at times, but we put ourselves in a position to win. It was a nice way to close out that first game.”
Early in the second quarter, SHS grabbed the lead when Campbell, a freshman, broke loose on a 30-yard keeper over the right side. The run gave the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead with 10:44 remaining in the half.
It was all the Bulldogs would muster, though, until the extra periods.
Outside of that one play, Suwannee mounted drives, but struggled to finish off possessions.
The Bulldogs picked up at least one first down on every possession other than Campbell’s one-play scoring run. But the opening SHS drive ended inside the Baker 20 and another possession in the second quarter stalled out after also advancing inside the Wildcats’ 20.
That came back to bite the Bulldogs late. On the final play of the third quarter, Baker County picked off the Bulldogs deep in Suwannee territory to set up a short field. Through three quarters, the Wildcats mustered just two first downs and 54 yards of offense. Suwannee junior Hanna Stout played a key part in limiting the Wildcats, as she racked up seven tackles.
After a short run gave the Wildcats a new set of downs, Baker scored on third-and-11 with 9:38 to tie it at 6.
Following a turnover on downs on Suwannee’s next possession, the Wildcats found some momentum once again and advanced into Suwannee territory with 1:22 remaining. Suzie Gonzalez, though, made a leaping interception on first down to kill the drive.
“She had a huge play and she had another one where she made a play on a wheel route where she didn’t chase inside earlier in the game,” Hufty said. “It didn’t result in an interception, but that was as big a play as anything, because they probably score if she doesn’t make that play.”
“They did some things that we haven’t seen yet, even down there in Tampa and it got us crossed up. But that’ll be great for us to learn.”
The Bulldogs nearly capitalized on that turnover, driving deep into Baker territory on the strength of its ground game with Campbell and Tyra Kalandyk, as well as a short pass that Kalandyk turned into a 20-yard gain.
However, a pair of incompletions led to a fourth-and-goal from the 8 and the Wildcats came up with a Macey Fox interception at the goal line with 30 seconds left.
In the first overtime session, Campbell scored on a third-and-1 run after completing a pass to Natalie Robinson, who pitched to Herring on first down that moved the ball to the 1.
“She’s a baller,” Hufty said about Campbell, who finished with 58 yards rushing on nine carries. “She’s a good little player and to only be a freshman like she is. We like what she does. She’s very confident and she’s comfortable with what we ask her to do.
“We definitely like what we have in her.”
Baker answered with a touchdown on third down from 15 yards out when a receiver was left wide open in the end zone. The Wildcats’ extra point pass was broken up by Aislinn Henry to keep the Bulldogs’ hopes alive.
Henry then also broke up Baker’s fourth-down pass in the second overtime to set up Suwannee’s game-winner to Herring, who finished with 99 yards receiving on seven receptions. The Bulldogs finished with 233 yards of offense, 93 rushing on 19 carries.
The Bulldogs play at Belleview on Tuesday before returning home to host Rickards on Thursday at 7 p.m.