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Caleb Phillips makes Norwood’s win even better

Jaguars’ D preserves win, both teams show compassion

  • Caleb Phillips, 22, was escorted by his mother and grandmother during eighth-grade recognition honors at Norwood Middle School last week. His mother is Mandy Truxa, left, and his grandmother is Ryanda Truax Hardwick. - Collin Riggs

  • Norwood’s Caleb Phillips finda a lane on the outside for the score against Cumberland Gap last week. - Collin Riggs

  • Norwood’s Riley Silk was a punishing runner for the Jaquars’ win over Cumberland Gap last week. - Collin Riggs

Norwood Middle School held its “Eighth Grade Night” Thursday, Oct. 4, while the Jaguars faced off against Cumberland Gap Middle School. The final score was 16-8 in favor of the Jaguars.

The game was a fantastic watch, with Norwood pulling ahead early.

The score stayed 8-0 at the end of the first half and the festivities began.

All the eighth-grade players took their places on the field, escorted by parents, grandparents, and some coaches. Each of their names was read, along with how long they played for the team.

The second half started with a Cumberland Gap touchdown to tie up the game, and it stayed tied until the end of the third. With 35 seconds left in the third, Norwood scored, and clenched the two-point conversion, putting the score at 16-8.

The most nail-biting part of the game, though, came with 50 seconds left in fourth.

Cumberland Gap sat in the red zone on third down, ready to tie up the game and send it to overtime. They snapped the ball, and Norwood stopped them.

They lined up again, Cumberland snapped the ball, and a Norwood defender darted past and tackled the Cumberland Gap quarterback, ending any chance the visitors had of tying the game, securing the win for Norwood.

Justin Taylor, Norwood’s head coach, said he was proud of the team, and grateful to be a part of their lives.

“I think for this team, it will be remembered for its ability to overcome. We’ve had so many injuries this year and just things that you wouldn’t ever expect to happen, happen.

“It didn’t matter to them, though. They never gave up and always gave everything for the person beside them. As a staff, we couldn’t be more proud, but, personally, I’ve loved not only getting to coach them, but to know them more as people,” Taylor said.

The most touching moment of the night, though, came after the whistles were blown.

At the end of the game, both teams lined up for one more play, five yards out from the endzone.

Norwood snapped the ball, and gave it to number 22, Caleb Phillips, who ran outside to score a final touchdown for Norwood – and the only of his middle school years.

Caleb, who has been the manager for the Jaguars for the past two years, has been battling cancer. Because of his treatment, his bones have been weaker and no doctor would clear him to play. Still, the team wanted to send him off with a score under his belt. Taylor said he couldn’t think of anyone that deserved it more.

“He’s always there — every single day,” Taylor said. “There were days that I wanted nothing to do with practice, but when Caleb walked in and was so excited just to be involved and help with anything he could, it kind of made me check my attitude. Every morning when I got to school, he would be right at the front door waiting and asking what the plan was for practice that day. His attitude has just been infectious, and it’s been an amazing asset.

“When you have team members who are always giving everything they can to help, they deserve good things. I’m glad we could help make something so special for him.”

Coach Taylor and the Jaguars also wanted to thank Cumberland Gap for working with them to make Caleb’s dream come true and Aaron Wright for helping to make the event as big a deal as it was around the community.