McKinney High football coach Jeff Smith couldn’t have asked for a better start from his football team in Friday night’s district contest versus visiting Richardson Pearce. On senior night, the winless Lions took the field against a Mustangs team, which also came into Ron Poe Stadium with an 0-4 mark in District 10-4A. Midway through the second quarter, MHS held a commanding 23-0 lead and the home crowd braced itself for what could have been their team’s shining moment.
Unfortunately, the Mustangs had other plans.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Lions’ final home game of 2011 ended, not with a long-awaited victory celebration, but with the all too familiar sight of teammates consoling each other following yet another bitter defeat. The Lions turned in an unquestionably valiant effort Friday night but when it was all over, McKinney High (0-8, 0-5) once again found itself on the losing end of the scoreboard, this time versus Richardson Pearce, 38-37.
“It’s hard on our kids because they really wanted to win that one and it just slipped through our fingers,” Smith said. “It’s a game of inches and it just didn’t go our way tonight.”
The Lions went into the locker room at halftime with a 30-14 lead and possession of the football to start the third quarter. MHS wasn’t able to capitalize on the opening drive of the second half and a forced punt resulted in a 13-yard touchdown run by Richardson’s Kelvin Kissi. The Mustangs converted on a two-point conversion pass from Corey Coleman to Bowie Tomlinson to narrow the MHS lead to 31-22.
On Pearce’s next possession, the Mustangs attempted to tie the game but ran into a fourth and long and brought out their punting unit. Rather than give the ball back to the homestanding Lions, the Mustangs caught everyone off guard and chose to go for a fake punt to keep the drive alive.
“You could feel the momentum shift,” Smith said of the trick play.
After the first down conversion, Pearce continued to move the football at will until Coleman finally capped the drive with his third rushing touchdown of the night on a five-yard carry. Coleman finished the night with 23 carries for 175 yards, three scores on the ground, and one two-point conversion that tied the game at 30-30 with 10:55 left in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a great player – no doubt,” Smith said of Coleman.
Despite the disappointment of a heartbreaking loss, Smith saw plenty of positives from his team in the four quarters of play. After the Mustangs completed their 23-point rally to tie the game at 30-30 in the fourth quarter, the Lions needed to respond with a score of their own. The Lions offense stepped out onto the field without leading rusher and all-around playmaker, Jonathon Shannon, who was on the sideline nursing a leg injury. MHS needed to move the ball through the air in order to score and on the fifth play of the drive, junior quarterback Robert Somborn hooked up with sophomore receiver TV Williams on a 41-yard touchdown play that put the Lions’ back in the drivers’ seat with 8:28 remaining. Williams’ terrific catch and score marked the first time this season that Smith has seen his team respond to the adversity of losing a lead.
“We haven’t done that this year,” he said.
Not only did the Lions manage to take the lead but the defense followed up with a huge three-and-out. McKinney High attempted to drive the ball down the field to put the game away but a Somborn pass intended for Quentin Casner was picked off by Pearce’s Brad Hulme and returned to the MHS’ 46 with 4:25 in regulation.
The Mustangs had plenty of time to put points on the board but the MHS defense stood tough and forced a fourth-and-12 with 32 seconds left on the clock. Following a timeout, the Pearce offense took the field and the fans on both sides of the stadium rose to their feet. Mustangs quarterback Rhett Svetgoff didn’t have much time to throw the football so, with the MHS defense charging into the backfield, he hurled a pass into the endzone, which was caught by Coleman on a highlight-reel diving catch.
“Hats off to them. The kid made a great play,” Smith said.
Even after watching a 23-point lead evaporate, Lions fans knew they still had a chance to win the game in regulation. If there’s one thing MHS has been good at this season it’s blocking extra point attempts. When Pearce lined up its field goal unit in an attempt to tie the game, the home sideline cheered on its defense and hoped that a blocked kick would prevent the game from going into overtime.
Lion’s fans may have got their wish of avoiding overtime but, unfortunately, it didn’t happen the way they hoped.
Rather than kick the game tying field goal, Pearce opted for a fake field goal pass and Svetgoff delivered a perfect ball to a wide-open Evan Harmon to take the lead, 38-37. Smith said his defense was prepared for a possible fake field goal attempt but it all came down to perfect execution by the Mustangs.
“We talked about it and we prepared for it,” he said. “There’s lots of different fakes and they ran a good one and executed it.”
With the loss, McKinney High dropped to 0-8 overall this season and 0-5 in district play. In the last two weeks of the season, the Lions will travel to play Wylie East and Highland Park. Richardson Pearce may have been the Lions best chance at winning a game in 2011 but with two game’s remaining, Smith isn’t giving up hope just yet.
“We have a lot to play for,” he said. “We’re going to play for our pride and our school and we’re going to play to get better. That’s the way we do things. We’re not going to do anything different. We’re going to work harder and keep battling.”
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-Joe Arriola, TownSquareBuzz.com