Sturgis football coach Jimmy Lamb admits he’s not a field goal kind of guy. Neither was junior kicker Jack Caywood before Friday night. Without a single career 3-point attempt, Caywood was delivered on a 20-yarder that lifted the Trojans to a 17-14 victory at Battle Creek Central as time expired.
Just inches from clipping the crossbar, Caywood’s line drive kept his team’s playoff hopes alive.
“It was definitely nerve racking, but I just did what I was taught and it barely made it,” said Caywood, who volunteered to serve primarily as the squad’s point-after-attempt guy despite no previous kicking experience. “The moment I hit it I saw it was low, but it went through and I just started going crazy. I got mobbed by all the guys.”
It was the culmination of a series of gut-check plays that went in the Trojans’ favor.
With the game tied in the fourth quarter, Sturgis moved down the field and had a touchdown called back on a holding infraction. A 10-yard loss on the next play made it 4th-and-29 at the Bearcats’ 38-yard line. Quarterback and punter Chance Stewart dropped one inside the 1-yard line before it bounced out of bounds.
Battle Creek Central converted the first down but let the football pop out. LA Vasquez was there to recover it for Sturgis with under a minute to play. An out route failed before Stewart made a positive play on a keeper, but he was two yards short of the first down. With a 4th-and-2 situation at the 18-yard line, Lamb opted not to go with Caywood, who would have had to attempt a 25-yarder.
“I said, ‘Let’s get this first down,’” Lamb explained. “We went for it and Matt Phillips got close to 12 yards on a run.”
Stewart moved the Trojans to the 3-yard line on another scramble and the clock initially ran. The officials, after discussing the matter, agreed that Sturgis had called its final timeout with just over a second remaining.
While all of this is going on, Caywood is warming up on the sideline next to assistant coach Ryan Banaszak.
“I was nervous and Coach Banaszak told me that he’d buy me dinner, so that’s what I was the thinking about,” Caywood said.
“He just put it through,” Lamb said. “It was a little low … laces were not out. I saw the laces, but he drove it through. It was great. I was excited for Jack. He came up big when he had to.”
Sturgis improved to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Association East Division. And even after hearing criticism that the Trojans were trying to throw the ball too much, Lamb dialed up 48 passing plays Friday. Stewart completed 30 of them for 356 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The program added 33 rushing yards. Phillips had only 16 yards on 12 carries before his pivotal fourth-down run.
Battle Creek Central (1-6, 0-5 SMAC East) tallied only 205 total yards of offense, but safety Montell Rainey jumped a Stewart pass in the third quarter and returned it 20 yards for a game-tying TD.
Stewart hit senior receiver J.D. Bowdish for a 31-yard score in the first quarter — one of 12 times the two would connect. Bowdish finished with 164 yards (13.7 per catch), tight end Oakley Stevens snagged seven balls for 58 yards, Jack Scheske caught six passes for 73 yards and Caywood hauled in a pair for 18 yards. Core Baldwin and Liam Adams got in on the action with one catch each for 24 and 17 yards, respectively.
Luke Summey led the team with eight tackles (3.5 for loss) and Tristen Stewart made six stops. Phillips posted 5.5 tackles and both Cold D’Haese and Adam Yunker made four tackles.
“Tonight’s game was out of this world,” Lamb said. “I was all over Caywood at halftime for not running a route hard on a fourth-down play in the second quarter. He showed up. It all just kind of fell into place.”
Caywood has already picked out the place at which he plans to dine on Banaszak’s dime.
“Cheese-only nachos at Maria’s,” he said.