By Brenden West
Assistant Sports Editor
The last time Lee Camp felt this thrilled with a win, the River Kings were going through a deep run in the 2009 playoffs.
"It's been awhile," Camp said. "You probably have to go all the way back. This was a fun game."
Fun — or heartstopping. After playing to a 21-21 tie in regulation, the River Kings had the first red-zone possession in overtime against Davenport Central. Right off the bat, the Blue Devils were called for encroachment, giving Clinton four shots at the end zone at the 5-yard line.
But when Alex Caldwell took a shotgun draw handoff, he spun himself into a 7-yard loss and an injury, pushing Clinton back to the 12.
Caldwell's brother, Dustin, took the running reins from there, and on the next play, he swept up the right sideline, dived for the pylon and put the River Kings up 27-21.
"After that touchdown, I knew we had the momentum," Dustin Caldwell, a senior, said. "That's everybody's dream, hitting the pylon in overtime for the game-winning score."
A blocked extra point by Central did a lot to quiet the home Clinton crowd.
The Blue Devils took the ball at the 10 and were at the 2 two plays later. Then a false start set them back to the 6, and after Central quarterback Brady Cartee was stuffed at the 4-yard-line, the game literally hinged on a fourth-and-goal.
Cartee took the snap, rolled right looking for a red-zone target but was swarmed short of the goal line. And in the middle of it all was Dustin Caldwell.
"We wanted this one bad, and I thought the defense stepped up when it needed to," he said.
So ended a pivotal Mississippi Athletic Conference game that played out more like a playoff thriller in late October. The River Kings triumphantly stormed their own sideline to the ovation of thousands of home fans, knocking off the Blue Devils 27-21.
Dustin Caldwell was the late hero, but the monster games came from quarterback Eric Maddasion and wideout Brady Ernst. They connected seven times for 147 yards and three touchdowns, crucial chemistry for claiming the win.
"He's 6-foot-8; he's a great weapon to have on offense," Maddasion said. He finished 15-of-25 with 207 yards and two interceptions. "I can see him at all times on the field."
With time winding down in the first half, Maddasion threw his first interception into the hands of Central's Daniel Oliger, setting the Blue Devils up on the River Kings' 42-yard line. On the next play, junior quarterback Cartee connected with Cameron Pugh behind the Clinton secondary and Central was first on the board with less than a minute to go in the second quarter.
The River Kings started their next series at their own 36-yard line. After a run for each of the Caldwells, Maddasion launched a bomb to Ernst along the right sideline, and the tall junior teetered along the sideline before falling out inside the 10. Two plays later, Maddasion and Ernst hooked up again for the touchdown, with Ernst skying over the smaller secondary near the right pylon.
The teams took a 7-7 tie to halftime, and after the River Kings stalled Central's first drive, they started another march at their own 20. Five plays later, at their own 37, Maddasion found Ernst on a 10-yard hitch that turned into an elusive 64-yard touchdown catch. Ernst did most of the work, cutting up the left side of the field and dragging a defender for the last 5 yards.
"I saw him coming behind me and I thought, there's no way I'm getting caught on this," Ernst said.
"We always knew (Ernst) could have a big game like this. He's a big threat, and he's worked really hard to get where he is," Camp said.
The touchdown gave Clinton its first lead at 14-7.
Central tied the game at 14 on a 55-yard pass from Tyler Pethod to Devon Brown as the third quarter wound to a close. The Blue Devils then capitalized on a muffed punt snap in Clinton territory and rushed 37 yards to the goal line early in the fourth. Pethod punctuated the drive with a 1-yard QB-sneak for the go-ahead score.
Maddasion and Ernst connected again on the River Kings' next drive, this time on a 16-yard fade route on fourth down to the back left corner of the end zone. Then Clinton made a major gamble, squibbing the ensuing kickoff and recovering it in Blue Devils territory.
With under four minutes to go, the River Kings seemed to be eyeing their game-winning drive then. But the Central defense held strong and forced a Clinton punt. Dustin Caldwell booted one to Central's 2-yard line.
"I wanted this more than anything," he said. "It was the same type of play they burned us on before, and I knew I wasn't going to let that happen again."
Two plays later, on the same deep route that burned Clinton's secondary earlier, Dustin Caldwell read the pattern and picked off Pethod's pass at the 25-yard line. The River Kings had two minutes to march a quarter of the field.
"Our defense did a tremendous job tonight," Camp said. In addition to a Tyler Clark fumble recovery in the first quarter, the team forced two turnovers and held the Devils to 234 yards total.
Maddasion was picked off a second time in the red zone and Central held onto the ball to end regulation.
It was a special moment for Dustin Caldwell.
"We've never beat Central in the four years I've been here," he said.
The River Kings improved to 2-1 on the season and travel to Muscatine next week for it's fourth game of the year.
CLINTON 27, DAVENPORT CENTRAL 21
Central 0 7 7 7 0 -- 21
Clinton 0 7 7 7 6 -- 27
D – Tyler Pethod pass to Cameron Pugh, 42 (Justin Sanchez kick good) 1:13
C – Eric Maddasion pass to Brady Ernst, 3 (Jared Redman kick good) 0:03
C – Maddasion pass to Ernst, 64 (Redman kick good) 5:02
D – Pethod pass to Devon Brown, 55 (Sanchez kick good) 1:00
D – Pethod run, 1 (Sanchez kick good) 8:11
C – Maddasion pass to Ernst, 16 (Redman kick good) 4:11
C -- Dustin Caldwell run, 12 (kick blocked) OT
RUSHING — Central (35-163), Devon Brown (8-22), Pethod (5-31), Tony Marshall (9-48), Cartee (3-9); Clinton (33-148), Dustin Caldwell (10-54), Alex Caldwell (13-37), Maddasion (10-52).
PASSING —Central (6-10-1-71), Tyler Pethod (5-9-1-29), Brady Cartee (1-1-0-42); Clinton (15-25-207-2), Eric Maddasion (15-25-207-2).
RECEIVING — Centra,Brown 2-57, Daniel Oliger 1-8, Cameron Pugh 2-41, Marshall 1-8; Clinton, Brady Ernst 7-147, Jake Espey 2-17, D. Caldwell 2-14, Zach Pope 2-7, Lucas Laufenberg 1-12.