Athlete of Week: Saints hit records behind McCauley

Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach quarterback Braden McCauley wishes he were still practicing football this week instead of basketball. But the Saints junior can make the seasonal transition knowing he helped lead the CAMB football team to its deepest – and only – trip to the playoffs in school history.

“It was great being part of this team this year,” said McCauley, who was voted the Mammy’s Kitchen Athlete of the Week following the Saints’ 20-14 overtime loss in the opening round of the SCISA playoffs. “Looking back on it now, we had a lot of fun and a lot of close games, and all the things we accomplished.

Indeed, it was a breakthrough season for the Saints, who have only been playing football for seven seasons. This year’s squad tripled the previous record for wins in a season with a 6-5 mark, the first winning campaign for the program. It’s a far cry from the first time McCauley put on the pads for the private school.

“My first year was our first season playing 11-man, so it was really tough,” McCauley recalled. “We didn’t have many players and a lot of people didn’t really know how to play. We were going up against bigger schools and we had small numbers. We won one game my first year and none next year, so people got down and it was hard to keep everybody motivated.”

McCauley’s QB role demands leadership, and he had a big hand in the achievements of a team that had only 15 players at the end of the year. The turning point of the season came during a wild 57-56 shootout win over Florence Christian, when CAMB erased a two-touchdown deficit in the final 5 minutes. The tying score that sent it into overtime came on a 2-point conversion try that McCauley modified in the huddle.

“We were behind 50-48 and there was only a few seconds left so we had to score to send it into overtime,” said McCauley, who passed for more than 1,500 yards and threw 18 touchdowns this season. “We called a toss sweep and I told the running back, ‘If you get stopped, pitch it back.’ He got stopped and I yelled, ‘Pitch it back!’ He did but it hit the ground, so I scooped it up and ran it in from about 5 yards. Then we won it in OT so that was a big turning point for us.”

The Saints went on to win four of their final six regular season games before suffering a tough 20-14 OT loss in the playoffs. But with McCauley coming back to lead the football team next season, he hopes the program can continue to climb to new heights.

“We lost eight seniors out of 15 players so those guys are going to be hard to replace,” said McCauley, a four-sport standout who also plays basketball, soccer and tennis. “But we have a lot of eighth-graders moving up to help us out, and the expectations are going to be higher for us from now on.”

– Photo by Joel Beachum

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