The Patterson Middle School Cavaliers brought another football championship plaque to the school trophy case following a wild 19-13 win in the cold Tuesday at Leo Buckley Stadium.
The eighth-grade football team’s victory over the Eastern Hills Panthers followed last year’s seventh-grade Cavaliers championship, completing back-to-back undefeated seasons for the same group of players.
After the Panthers took a lead into the fourth quarter, Patterson battled back, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the final four minutes and holding off the determined Eastern Hills team to preserve the victory.
It was a sweet win for Patterson coach Quincy Francis, who coached the seventh-graders in their championship season a year ago and moved up with this year’s eighth-graders for the encore win.
“It was an amazing journey to come back with the same players,” he said. “They were dedicated. From the start of the season we were on a mission to make it back to the championship.”
Over the course of two seasons of 16 straight victories and two championship games, the Cavaliers faced great challenges, but met them all.
“They never quit,” Francis said. “They always found a way to win. We met a very determined team and again they found a way. They believed in themselves. They fought to take the lead and fought to hold on.
“They have done it all year on the field and have kept their grades up. They are always ready to work and to overcome adversity.”
In the championship, Patterson quarterback Zy’Aire King put in a strong performance, as well as receiver Amare Johnson, who hauled in an athletic catch and ran for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Francis said. Defensive end Tyler Gaines also came up big on defense.
King opened the scoring with a touchdown run after defensive end Tyler Gaines forced and recovered a fumble.
The Panthers answered with a touchdown pass on fourth down to their tight end and led 7-6 at halftime.
Eastern Hills added to its lead in the third quarter after the Cavs fumbled deep in their own territory.
Early in the fourth quarter, Patterson converted a fourth-and-20, aided by a pass interference penalty. Zavian Tibbs capped the drive with a TD run, and giant defensive tackle Mykai Void rumbled in for the extra point to tie the game at 13.
The Cavs then caught a break when James Rowell was able to recover the kickoff in what became an unintentional onside kick.
Johnson then ran a hard slant over the middle and hauled in a dart from King and raced 50 yards untouched to the end zone for the go-ahead score.
A big catch-and-run by Eastern Hills, and a touchdown-saving tackle by Matthew Moore, set up the Panthers with first-and-goal at the Patterson 7.
On fourth down, with 7 seconds remaining, the Cavs sacked the Eastern Hills quarterback to seal the victory.
Johnson and defensive end Tyler Gaines were the first to reach the quarterback. Defensive end Rashad Jackson helped force him out of the pocket.
Patterson allowed just seven TDs on the season and 10 over their two-year championship run.
In the first game of the night, the Smith Middle School Leopards won the seventh-grade championship over Union Grove in a tight 12-6 finish, also completing an undefeated season.
“This is a great group of kids,” said Smith coach Jean Bains. “They are very coachable. They put their heart into it all season. They have worked from day one.”
He said the defense came up especially big in the championship game, limiting the hard-charging Grizzlies to just six points.
“These students worked hard on the field and in the classroom,” Bains said. “They had an undefeated season and they are already talking about coming back next year as eighth-graders.
“The defense really stepped up and shined to only give up six points.”
The pair of championship games brought out proud, hearty fans, as well as the schools’ cheerleaders and the Patterson band.
The middle school championship games also served as a learning lab for Union Grove’s technology club, which worked alongside KISD-TV and MY 95.1 Radio students and staff to broadcast the games.
Smith quarterback Roderick Norman opened the scoring with a 3-yard run.
The Leopards took a 12-0 lead on another Norman run set up by a 35-yard completion to CJ Tye.
Cornerback Xavier Gonzalez and linebacker Justice Janda put a hit on the Union Grove quarterback that resulted in a Troy Holton fumble recovery for the Leopards that started their second scoring drive.
The Grizzlies blocked a punt in the third quarter to set up their only scoring drive.
Pinned deep in their end of the field late in the game, the Leopards punted to Union Grove and CJ Tye recovered a botched return to give the Leopards the opportunity to run out the clock.
Defensive linemen Albert Vandeway, Conner Schultz, Humberto Prado and V’Jae Brown were other standouts for the Leopards.
K’Mare Balfour intercepted a pass on the Grizzlies’ first play of the game.