by Jerit Roser // Contributor

Rodney Guin smiled at multiple times during Saturday’s postgame press conference as he reiterated that his Calvary Baptist players were not lacking for confidence.

Not against higher-classification opponents early in the schedule. Not trailing two-time defending champion St. Charles Catholic by two scores late in the Division-III Select title game. 

And not anywhere in between in the Cavaliers’ undefeated run through the season, the first such in program history, capped by their thrilling 34-28 comeback in Caesars Superdome.

“One thing we have, we’re very confident — sometimes I think they’re too confident,” the longtime coach said. “But, you know, again, we needed a chance. And we got the first score, and I felt good. We weren’t gonna try to set it up for a field goal. We were going for a touchdown. They had already blocked an extra point. So it was score or get beat for us. But, again, great players make big plays at the end of the game.”

Calvary Baptist pulled within 28-26 with just 2:47 remaining on a 20-yard pass from junior quarterback Abram Wardell to senior wide receiver Aubrey Hermes.

The defense forced a turnover on down six plays later and handed the ball back to Wardell and company near midfield with 44 seconds on the clock.

But the Cavaliers needed just 26 of those seconds to march 51 yards to the end zone on another 20-yard strike, this time to fellow junior Kolby Thomas.

“We had full confidence, of course, playing this team,” Wardell said. “They were undefeated. I don’t even know what their win streak was, 20-something. I’ll just say the biggest thing is these guys up here, our guys, we never gave up. Even when they led by 15, we just took it play by play, not looking at the scoreboard and just every single play sticking it to ‘em, and we ended up winning.”

Part of that confidence is rooted in the year-round preparation of Calvary Baptist’s strength and conditioning program, the benefits of which Guin and his players said they could sense in the season’s final moments.

“We have worked pretty hard,” the coach said. “We ran every day. It didn’t matter who we were playing. We lifted weights the whole year. We never stopped, including this week. We work very hard. Our goal at our place is when we start Aug. 1, we’re game-ready conditioning-wise. And we do that during the summer. And they buy into the process. And I think you saw tonight, I really believe, the fourth quarter. I know they were tired, and the rush wasn’t as good, the coverage wasn’t as good, and we made the plays at that point.”

The senior class wraps his high school career with a second state championship, including standouts such as Hermes and offensive lineman Jimmy Wright who both played in the 2020 title game as freshmen.

And a long list of juniors, such as Wardell, Thomas and Outstanding Player running back James Simon, and underclassmen further etched their legacies in the program’s history with their contributions to its fourth state title. 

All in a matter of 44 seconds of unwavering confidence founded in a wealth of behind-the-scenes work and preparation for the moment.

“What a comeback,” Guin said. “Great group of kids. I told our media, local guys, all year long: We started in August. We have never had a bad day. There’s never been a bad day of practice. There’s never been a bad game we played. And just not a bad day of school. They do a lot of stuff the right way. And, you know, we reap the benefits of that tonight, so, man, what a night for the Cavaliers.”