Colton Simpson

Colton Simpson, junior, runs the ball in Callisburg's 42-14 win against Henrietta.

When Callisburg’s back was against the wall, Colton Simpson undercut a pass and took it the distance.

Simpson, a junior, led the way Friday night as the Wildcats defeated Henrietta 42-14 in a big district showdown at Wildcat Stadium.

Callisburg (8-1 overall, 3-1 District 6-3A-2) clinched a playoff spot with the win, and a high finish within the district is within reach.

Henrietta (7-2, 3-1) dropped its first district loss with first-placed Holliday still to go.

Simpson said the Wildcats played hard the entire game.

“That’s one of our biggest strengths,” Simpson said. “We don’t have a lot of athletes. We just play hard until the whistle blows.”

Midway through the third quarter, Callisburg led 21-7. Henrietta drove to the Wildcats’ 6-yard line and looked set to score when Simpson jumped the route and returned the interception around 96 yards for a touchdown. Instead of Henrietta pulling within a score, the Wildcats increased their lead to 21.

Simpson said the play was an example of Callisburg bouncing back when things are going against the Wildcats.

“I watched their quarterback’s eyes,” Simpson said. “Saw that their inside receiver was running a slant. I just back dropped, popped the ball up, ran it did, just did my thing.”

The Wildcats had led 21-0 late in the second quarter until Henrietta sophomore Garrett Blevins returned a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown. Callisburg fumbled early in the second half, and it seemed the Bearcats were back in the game. Simpson’s play changed that quickly.

Callisburg coach Eddie Gill said the play provided a huge momentum shift.

“Colton’s that way,” Gill said. “He’s smart. He’s playing middle linebacker and jumps a slant route on the outside on the goal line. Usually, on the goal line, middle linebackers are sticking their nose up in there. And then, had the athleticism to make the tip, keep his wits, catch it, and then had the endurance and speed to run about 100 yards for a touchdown. Great play.”

The pick six was Simpson’s third score of the night. He had two rushing touchdowns in the first half, giving him 21 of the Wildcats’ first 28 points.

The Wildcat defense intercepted three other passes. Sophomore A.J. Cowger picked off two passes, and junior Greyson Thurman had one.

Gill said he was proud of the defense’s performance.

“We got a little pressure on the quarterback,” Gill said. “Made him to get the ball up in the air, and we made good breaks… Really proud of the secondary, defense overall. Really proud.”

Callisburg’s other Colton, junior quarterback Colton Montgomery, played a big role, as well. He scored three rushing touchdowns and rushed for a two-point conversion.

The win ensures Callisburg will finish at least in the top three within the district. The Wildcats have come a long way from the winless 2019 season. Gill said he has seen a lot of growth in his players.

“They bought in doing the little bitty extra things,” Gill said. “Before the game, a lot of times, we’ll show little motivational videos or something like that. We had a group of about 10 or 12 kids that were down at the other end of our meeting room, and they had Henrietta against City View on. Still studying film right before we came out. I really like that kind of stuff. They’ve grown a lot.”

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