SAVANNAH, Ga. — Benedictine’s defensive secondary knew it faced its biggest test of the year going up against a high-powered Calhoun passing offense.
The Cadets rose to the challenge by intercepting three passes and beating Calhoun 35-14 to advance to the GHSA Class AA semifinals.
It’s the first final-four appearance in school history for the Cadets (13-0). They will face Lamar County, a winner over Jefferson, next week.
“It was a great game for our defensive backs,” said Benedictine senior John Solitario, who made the final interception of Fields Chapman in the fourth quarter. “Not many teams had thrown the ball against us. But we watched a ton of film and we used a lot of nickel packages that helped us out.”
The Yellow Jackets (11-2) turned the ball over six times, with the three interceptions and three lost fumbles. They rushed for 81 yards, and Chapman was 21-of-32 passing for 264 yards with two touchdowns.
“It’s hard to beat anyone when you have six turnovers,” Calhoun coach Hal Lamb said. “But Benedictine is a very well-coached team. They are very physical and they don’t turn the ball over. When you have two good teams like this, it usually comes down to the turnover battle. And they won that tonight.”
Calhoun looked impressive on its first possession, but Cadets linebacker Miles McGinty stripped Tydus Curtis of the ball and Joseph Holguin pounced on it at the Benedictine 12-yard line.
The Cadets offense went to work from there, with an impressive 20-play, 86-yard drive that burned nine minutes off the clock. Fullback Kyle South plunged into the end zone from a yard out for a 7-0 lead.
The hosts’ second touchdown came after a bad snap on a Calhoun punt attempt — giving the Cadets the ball on the Yellow Jackets’ 9-yard line. On second down, Mike Huggins took it around left end for a 7-yard touchdown.
Chapman got the Yellow Jackets back in it with a 56-yard scoring pass to Chandler Curtis with 8:17 left in the half. Curtis caught the ball about 10 yards downfield and made a nice move before breaking away up the right sideline for the score.
Junior Brad Stewart set up the next Cadets touchdown when he picked off a Chapman pass at midfield. Four plays later, Huggins broke loose once again, this time on a run up the middle for a 27-yard touchdown.
Huggins rushed for 96 yards and two scores on 16 carries.
Calhoun cut the deficit to 21-14 when Chapman connected with Logan Walraven on an 8-yard scoring pass with 12 seconds left in the half. Benedictine was forced to punt on its first series of the second half, but on the next play, Tydus Curtis fumbled after making a catch and Ellison Burns recovered for the Cadets.
Two plays later, J.J. Gaines (92 yards on 15 carries) made a nice cutback and scored on a 10-yard touchdown run, and Benedictine took a 28-14 lead. Later in the third quarter, Cadets senior Ben Wright made his team-leading fourth interception of the year. On the next play, junior Chance Jackson got loose and scampered down the left sideline for a 38-yard scoring run.
Benedictine rushed for 262 yards.
“It’s a lot of fun blocking for this offense. We have three guys who can break loose for a touchdown any time they touch the ball,” senior tackle Sean Fogarty said.
“This was an incredible team win,” coach Danny Britt told the Cadets as they met on the field after the game. “It was a great example of team football. We gave up more than we usually do, but we made some really big plays on defense.”