WACO — C.J. Giddens was in an unusual situation.
Representing Florence one final time, the recent graduate capped off his high school career by competing in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Victory Bowl at Waco ISD Stadium.
While the former Buffaloes quarterback was playing with an all-star roster full of previously unfamiliar faces, it was not the cast of new teammates that was uncommon to Giddens — it was the situation.
Trailing with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Giddens led the Blue team 84 yards down the field, capping off the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to give his team a 27-26 victory.
Following the game, Giddens admitted the circumstances were extremely unfamiliar.
“I’ve never been in a comeback situation like that,” he said. “So, I was a little nervous, but I knew I had to execute the offense and what coach called.
“We just had to fight to the finish, and that’s what we did on the last drive. We finished strong.”
Along with his late heroics, Giddens completed 7 of 18 attempts for 117 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing 10 times for 73 yards, and the production earned him the offensive player of the game award.
Although the game ended up coming down to the wire, early on, neither team could generate any offense.
After the Blue team fumbled away the game’s opening possession on the first play from scrimmage, the Red team could not capitalize, going three-and-out and punting the ball.
The Blue team’s second drive also ended in a turnover, losing a fumble after advancing all the way to the Red team’s 28-yard line.
The squads exchanged two more fruitless drives before the Blue team finally found its rhythm.
With Giddens engineering the offense, the Blue team recorded three consecutive first downs to open the possession, including runs of 24 and 11 yards by the former Florence quarterback, before reaching the end zone with 5 minutes remaining in the first half. Kolbe Branch, of Fairfield, capped off the drive with a 19-yard reception from Giddens.
Less than two minutes later, the Blue team reclaimed possession, and Giddens helped work his team down the field, setting up Milford’s Lowisley Ojeda for a successful 20-yard field goal as time expired, and the Red team trailed 10-0 at halftime.
The advantage grew to 17-0 as Crawford’s Gage Pearson and Hillsboro’s Jamal Long for a 27-yard touchdown.
Behind Shoemaker’s running back Ozias Wright, however, the Red team rallied.
Wright scored on a 66-yard run and again on a 3-yard run, tying the score 20-20 with 8:00 remaining in regulation, and the Red would capture its first lead at 26-20 with 6:17 left, setting the stage for Giddens to guide the Blue team on a 10-play game-winning drive.
Wright finished with 110 yards on 12 carries for the Red team, while teammate Hayden Haire, of Salado, completed 1 of 3 passes for 7 yards. Additionally, Belton’s Marshall Fish had a 9-yard catch for the Red team, while Copperas Cove’s Bryce Ranes caught seven passes for 115 yards for the Blue team.
Although the win was nice, Giddens departs from the game with much more than a victory.
“To meet new people and get new friends,” he said, “and then to come together around the game of football was just a great experience.”