FULTON — A lot of big things happened when Caston hosted Culver for a homecoming football game on Friday night.
Hunter Shaffer, who was born with cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound, scored a touchdown on a kickoff return before the game that warmed the hearts of everyone in attendance. He was also named Caston’s 2019 Homecoming King at halftime.
The Comets also honored cancer survivors, current fighters and those whom cancer has taken as the players wore pink shirts before the game and wrote on a paper somebody they know who is affected by cancer.
As for the game itself, the Comets made too many mistakes to hang with the older and bigger Cavaliers, who continued their bounce-back season with a 54-26 victory.
The Cavaliers (5-2, 3-2 HNAC) gave the Comets (0-7, 0-5) a heavy dose of big Carter Stevens, who rumbled for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
“I think he’s probably bigger than everybody in our school, maybe our county,” Caston coach Tony Slocum said. “He’s a good, physical player. I told him that just a few seconds ago. I like the way they play football. That’s how I grew up and they played it well. I also thanked them for participating at the beginning of the game with Hunter Shaffer able to get a touchdown. I told them how much I appreciated it and how much his family appreciated it.”
Shaffer wasn’t the only King who had a big night. Culver’s Jalen King had 85 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.
Culver sophomore quarterback Tucker Fisher was 3 of 4 passing for 85 yards, which included TD passes of 59 and 9 yards, both to Damian Sullivan, who also had 67 yards rushing on just two carries.
A bright spot on the night for the Comets, other than Shaffer’s shine, was the play of sophomore Sam Smith, who showed some electrifying speed. He rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. He also had an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown for a four-touchdown night.
“He’s a good athlete. We try to get him the ball as much as possible,” Slocum said. “It’s tough because everybody knows that’s who we need to get the ball to to make plays. But that’s what he does. He’s a hard-working player and he’s only going to get better because he’s smart and again he takes the coaching and he’s instinctive.”
Freshman quarterback Landon Shafer had 50 yards rushing on nine carries and was 8 of 14 passing for 39 yards for the Comets. Jessie Rock-Wolf had six catches for 30 yards.
Sam DuVall stuffed a fourth-down play which set up the Comets’ first touchdown drive that was capped by Smith’s 5-yard run that made it an 8-6 game with 3:21 left in the first quarter.
The Comets had chances to hang around longer. They missed on recovering a couple of Culver fumbles in the first half. They also lost back-to-back fumbles following drives deep into Culver territory. They also threw a pick 6 that Jake Fisher returned 25 yards for a score. The end result was they trailed 54-12 at halftime and a running clock was implemented for the second half.
Smith had TD runs of 1 and 9 yards in the second half, and when it was a matchup of young players versus young players the Comet defense came up with a quick stop.
“Coach Ulerick our defensive coordinator reminded me that is basically the age of our kids,” Slocum said. “Unfortunately for our kids, they don’t get to play at the JV level, they’ve got to come into one of the toughest conferences, and they just kept playing. That’s what I wanted them to do. And they did some good things when Culver’s varsity was in. They put points up on the board, ran a kickoff back, just not nearly enough.”
The Comets had some mistakes they just couldn’t afford to make against the Cavaliers. Senior Hunter Schanlaub summed it up best.
“A lot of mental errors on our part. They were more physical than we were. Coming out of the gate we matched their physicality. They had a couple big runs and a couple penalties later, our physicality started to die down, and then we started having mental errors and lots of dumb penalties, including myself, I had a couple.”
The power of sports was on display with Shaffer’s kickoff return for a touchdown. But there was also a lot of reminders that there are things much more important than sports.
“I’d like to thank the fans that came out tonight,” Slocum said. “But also our prayers go out to Bruce Cress, one of our board members who had a medical emergency during the game. Obviously our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.
“Hunter Schanlaub, his mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, fortunately she told me it’s early stage so the prognosis is good. Our longtime announcer, Don King, is battling his own cancer battle and the kids wrote on 8x11 cardboard who they were going to play in honor of, people that they know that have been affected by cancer, some who won the battle and some who succumbed. But they played hard and it’s pretty emotional when you read some of those cards and see how cancer has affected our people. And we just want people that have cancer to know that they’re not fighting alone. We care and there’s people in this community that care about you. If you fight, we fight with you.”