In a wild finish at Leo Buckley Stadium on Wednesday, the Union Grove Middle School Grizzlies eighth-grade football team scored the final touchdown and extra point of the game as time ticked away in their thrilling 28-27 KISD championship win over the hard-fighting Smith Leopards.
In the first game of the football championship, the seventh-grade Palo Alto Patriots prevailed in a defensive struggle, earning a 12-0 victory over the Patterson Cavaliers for their own middle school district title.
Both winning coaches praised their teams’ hard work through the season and determination to win against strong opponents on a chilly night in front of excited fans. As always, cheerleaders, band and dance teams supported the players.
At the conclusion of the seventh-grade game, Shoemaker High School head football coach Toby Foreman joined KISD Assistant Athletics Director Kevin Lawler in presenting the championship plaque.
Following the eighth-grade game, Harker Heights head football coach Jerry Edwards joined Lawler in presenting the plaque.
The coaches said their schools provide great support to the teams and that the win would mean a lot to each campus.
UNION GROVE GRIZZLIES
Dylan Plake tossed a touchdown pass to Terrell Washington in the final seconds to tie the game at 27.
Plake then ran in the extra point to seal the win, capping a frantic comeback in the final minute.
Torre Mallard’s fourth-and-2 catch kept the game-winning drive alive.
Smith took a 27-21 lead with 36 seconds remaining.
Following the wild finish, Union Grove coach Brian Young praised his team’s strong efforts against a determined Smith Leopards team.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” Young said. “They worked super hard for this. They fought to the last second. They never gave up. I’m proud of all the coaches and our faculty. This means everything to our kids.”
Mallard and Washington scored touchdowns to lift the Grizzlies to a 21-6 halftime lead.
The final two and a half minutes of the Union Grove-Smith game brought coaches, players and fans to their feet.
Union Grove’s Tavian Spencer came up with a big interception, halting the Leopards’ late drive. But a fumble recovery on the next play led to a Smith touchdown and a six-point lead with less than a minute remaining.
The Grizzlies set up for a final drive and picked up yardage on several pass plays, leading to Plake’s pass to Washington in the end zone with four seconds remaining to knot the score at 27.
Next, Plake took a quarterback sneak into the end zone for the extra point and the difference in the game, which ended at 28-27.
“It was very thrilling,” Young said of the finish. “It was nerve- racking as a coach, but they came through. It was awesome. They never gave up.”
In addition to Plake and Washington, Young praised Mallard, Aaron Gomez, Andy Poteau, Joseph Green and Ashton Stanford for outstanding play in the final game and in the Grizzlies’ 8-0 perfect season.
PALO ALTO PATRIOTS
The Patriots scored on their opening drive, then thwarted a Patterson comeback in the final two minutes by returning an interception for another score to seal the win.
“Hard work pays off,” Palo Alto coach Anderson Beasley said at the end of the seventh-grade game.
“Sometimes their effort can be overlooked, but these guys took care of business in the classroom and on the field all season,” the Patriots coach said. “These students know that hard work pays off.”
For Palo Alto, the matchup against the Cavaliers represented opportunity for redemption. An early-season loss to Patterson led to a six-game win streak and a 7-1 record for the seventh-grade Patriots, setting up the rematch.
“I had no doubt that my boys would seize the moment and come away with the district title,” Beasley said. “This win helps us continue to build on becoming a top school that produces great scholar-athletes.”
The Patriots coach praised quarterback Malachi Jerome as a strong leader, along with Adrian Scott, Vasega Fassa, Torion Thomas, King Harris, Aundair Bowser and Lamont Reed.
“The whole school is on cloud nine right now,” Beasley said. “We’re proud to represent our school and glad to be part of a new tradition.”
Offensive standouts for Patterson were Veloni Ward and wide receivers Travaris Turner-Smith, Marques Kelley and Taylon Davis.
Defensive standouts were Travaris Turner-Smith, Sean Parks (interception), William Ellison and Larry Davis.
LIBERTY HILL 8A 47, EASTERN HILLS 8A 25: At Liberty Hill, Amir Cavello tossed five touchdown passes and scored four extra points to lead the Lions to a win and a three-way share of the conference title with Smith and Manor.
Smith won the tiebreaker, however, and advanced to the eighth-grade championship game.
The Lions (5-3, 4-1 conference) trailed 12-7 after the first quarter, but outscored the Panthers 21-6 in the second period and led the rest of the way.
The Panthers cut the lead to 34-25 in the fourth quarter but Cavello answered with his final two touchdowns passes to seal the victory.
Markel Pearson scored on a 47-yard run 27-yard pass from Cavello and an extra point.
Emanuel Morales caught TD passes of 67 and 70 yards from Cavello.
Joseph Massey scored on an 82-yard run, and Kristopher White caught 55- and 10-yard TD passes.
Other offensive standouts were Gabriel Martin and Nathaniel Lahey.
The Lions forced three turnovers — an interception by Rayford Jones and fumble recoveries by Anthony Massey and Cavello.
Massey also forced a fumble and registered a sack.
Cavello also had a sack, as did Johnny Williams and Joseph Massey.
The Lions won five of their last six games.