McALLEN — With 2:18 left in the game, a Mission High field goal sailed through the uprights. The lead became 10 for the Eagles, who were 138 ticks away from handing McAllen Memorial its first district loss since Oct. 25, 2013.
Not so fast.
Even though the Mustangs trailed by 21 at one point, 14 at the half and 10 in the final minutes, McAllen Memorial wouldn’t be denied a 27th straight district win, emerging victorious 42-38 on Thursday night at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium in the Monitor’s Game of the Week.
“In the locker room, when were down he said, ‘Play for them, the guys before you.’ So we did that,” junior running back Campbell Speights said. “We knew that we had this streak going, but aside from that, we wanted to start 1-0 in district.”
The comeback started with a trick play. A wide receiver pass from Zyan Gregory to senior receiver Ethan Bazan went for 37 yards, and the Mustangs were in business.
Speights nearly recorded a completion of his own, but instead, a Mission defender was called for a pass interference. Bazan caught his second TD of the night one pass later to cut the lead to three with 1:37 remaining.
“Our coaches are going to do whatever it takes to win,” Speights, who had three touchdowns on the night, said. “If we have to do trick plays one after another after another, we’re going to do it until we win.”
In the game’s biggest moment, Memorial kicker Alex Cardenas kicked and recovered his own onside attempt to give the Mustangs possession one more time. The ball was picked up dangerously close to 10-yard mark necessary for the kicking team to be eligible to fight for the ball.
Sean Skaugen scrambled for 47 yards to put the ball at the 3-yard line. With 46 seconds left, Speights was high-stepping his way into the promised land and giving his squad its first lead.
“It felt great, because the whole game, we were trailing,” Speights said. “To finally score, with seconds left, and to just know that we’re on top, that was just the best feeling.”
Mission High was excellent for many moments and in many phases of the game. Freshman Jeremy Duran started at quarterback and tossed a TD pass to Andrew Maldonado.
After that, Damian Gomez was back under center and was a difference-maker. He threw a touchdown pass and ran for another two.
The Eagles defense was strong for most of the first half. Mission forced Memorial to punt on three of its first four drives and picked off a pass. They would have taken a three-touchdown lead into the break if not for a penalty-plagued defensive drive prior to the break that let Memorial cut the deficit to 14.
“The best thing about this bunch tonight is at halftime they decided to play Mustang football, and we looked like a football team the second half,” Memorial coach Bill Littleton said. “I won’t say much about the first half, but we looked pretty good the second half.”
Bazan had 169 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the win. He also had 127 yards and a score against Vela in Memorial’s last outing.
“It feels pretty good, because it feels like with me in the mix, we can be an unstoppable team,” Bazan said. “With the run game, the sky’s the limit.”
Skaugen led his team in rushing with 129 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 28 early in the fourth.
Mission’s Maldonado had the lone rushing score from a running back, but Tito Moronta led the Eagles with 123 rushing yards. Both players pitched in on defense. Moronta even had a sack.
Even after a strong effort, the Eagles won’t remember this instant classic too fondly.
“We had a lot of good things happen, but it’s disappointing that we didn’t close that one out,” Mission coach Koy Detmer said. “We put ourselves in good situations and positions and they made plays, credit to them, they needed to make. The message to our guys is, ‘There’s a lot of football left. This is only game one.’ If we do that, we’ll be all right.”