Havelock’s Harry Caldwell had never caught a touchdown pass. Heck, the defensive lineman had never even caught one pass in high school.
Yet, there the senior was, making his only career catch a touchdown in a crucial spot for the Rams in their 55-21 victory over Concord in the state championship game Saturday in Winston-Salem.
“It was amazing,” Caldwell said of the touchdown that drew Havelock within 21-20 of the Spiders at halftime. “That’s my first and only catch in high school. I had a feeling we might run that play, but I had no idea we would run it at such a crucial time.”
Havelock was reeling, down 21-14 with just 42 seconds left in the first half at its own 35-yard line. Quarterback Pharoh Cooper scrambled for 28 yards and 26 yards on consecutive plays and then spiked the ball to stop the clock with just seconds left and the Rams still 11 yards from the end zone.
Caldwell, a 6-foot, 210-pound noseguard, has played on the offensive side of the ball for the Rams this season, serving only as an extra blocking back with fellow defensive lineman Malcom Ashley on short-yardage situations. But this was no short-yardage situation.
Cooper faked a stretch running play to the right and rolled out to his left. Caldwell had slipped away from the defense unnoticed and was wide open in the left flat. Cooper lofted a soft pass that Caldwell grabbed and carried into the end zone, cutting Concord’s lead to 21-20 at halftime.
“I was just about to strangle Pharoh because I didn’t want him to throw the ball to Harry because Harry’s never caught a pass in a game,” Havelock coach Jim Bob Bryant said. “Harry said he did a lot of praying (Friday) night, and he caught that ball and got in the end zone.”
Bryant said the pass play was a reward to Caldwell and Ashley for their work in the short-yardage situations.
“Having him (Harry) and Malcom on the field at the same time in our spread eye set, those two guys are usually blocking all the time,” Bryant said. “I told them that they had done such a good job this year that I was going to put in a couple of pass plays to them, and just luckily that play worked out where Harry was wide open. Pharoh lofted it to him because I told him to make sure he knew who he was throwing to, that he was throwing to a defensive lineman. He caught it, got into the end zone, and Harry’s excited about it.”
But the play was also implemented because of how Concord played defensively against Havelock’s stretch running plays.
“We put that play in this week off the stretch because we knew they squeezed hard coming off the back side,” Bryant said. “We knew they were trying to take away our stretch out of our eye set, so we put that play in this week. It’s called a 37 boot, and we scored two touchdowns on it.”
The other touchdown was Cooper’s 12-yard toss to receiver C.J. Lindsey with 5:17 left in the fourth quarter, putting the Rams on top 49-21.
In his normal position on the defensive line, Caldwell recorded five tackles, one for loss and also broke up a pass for a unit that didn’t give up a point in the second half.
And with that, Caldwell ended his high school career not only with one big touchdown catch but his second consecutive state 3A championship.
“It means everything,” he said of the title. “It means the world.”