It did not produce points, but it was still successful.
After taking a 35-28 lead in the fourth quarter, Gatesville head coach Kyle Cooper decided to attempt an onside kick with 5:11 remaining in the game. The choice was risky considering an unsuccessful kick would give Alvarado good field position with plenty of time to engineer a game-tying drive.
But Cooper had faith in his players, and rightfully so.
Senior kicker Sebastian Corrales sent the ball flying toward the Hornets’ sideline, where J.D. Nolte made the recovery, giving his team a short field and an injection of momentum.
“We kick that a lot,” Cooper said. “I believe in Sebastian, and I believe in J.D. I just gambled on my kids, and they did a great job.”
Although Nolte came up with the recovery, it was not without some tense moments.
“I was just thinking, ‘Let it get 10 yards before you catch the ball, and don’t ruin this,’” the senior recalled. “But I knew he had a perfect kick. It was beautiful.”
While a score would have made it a two-possession game, the ensuing drive stalled at the Alvarado 13-yard line, where the Hornets turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth-and-inches.
Nevertheless, the Hornets’ produced a spark with the successful onside recovery, and, two plays later, senior defensive back Tyler Jaynes picked off a pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown and a 41-28 advantage with 1:42 remaining in the game.
“I was not thinking (I would make it to the end zone) at all,” said Jaynes, who also caught three passes for a game-high 80 yards and two touchdowns.
The Hornets were probably not expecting to recover the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown either, but Colin Magee made it a reality when he pounced on a fumbled ball in the end zone, and Gatesville won 48-28 to collect the school’s first playoff victory since 2001, when it defeated Taylor 21-7.
Regardless of impetus, the Hornets are undefeated through 11 games for the first time since their state-championship run in 2000 and will face Vernon (9-2) Friday at 2 p.m. at Weatherford’s Kangaroo Stadium.
While several Gatesville players admitted to knowing little about the Lions immediately following their bi-district victory, Nolte, who also caught five passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns, was certain about his team’s ability to continually discover new ways to win.
“I can’t explain it,” the receiver/defensive back said. “We just do it. It is different every week. The craziest things just happen, and we just get it done. We’re just going to fight to the end. We’re not going to give up.”
- Gatesville (11-0) vs. Vernon (9-2), Division II-3A area at Kangaroo Stadium, Weatherford — Vernon is a rush-heavy offense capable of testing Gatesville’s run-defense. Headlined by junior Robert Thomas (1,005 yards and 14 touchdowns), the Lions have four runners with at least 495 rushing yards this season, and three of those have posted at least 10 touchdowns.
In last week’s 55-28 bi-district victory against Springtown, however, Vernon displayed balance as senior quarterback Brandon Urquizo completed seven of eight passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Orlando Haymon (178 rushing yards and three touchdowns) paced the Lions’ ground game to 289 yards.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org