Sometimes you get one lucky break, and sometimes you get two, but that’s not always enough to get you the win.
Harker Heights found that out the hard way Friday night as they fell to the Waco Lions 42-35. It was the team’s first loss of the season.
Running back Jameel Hodges had 124 rushing yards in the first half alone, and finished the night with two touchdowns and 179 all-purpose yards.
After exchanging touchdowns all night, Heights itself down two touchdowns toward the end of the third quarter.
With about three minutes left, the Lions set up to punt inside their own 30-yard line. The snap was high and Jalen Maxey scooped up the ball and brought it to the 10.
With a little help from a pass interference flag, senior quarterback Jaquan Tillis took the direct snap and scampered between two defensive linemen for the touchdown. Harker Heights was back within a score, down 35-28.
Then the Knights got their second big break. On the following kick return, Reese Vasquez forced a fumble and Nathaniel Fennell recovered it for the Knights.
That eventually turned into a Hodges touchdown from 3 yards out, and Harker Heights tied the game 35-35 with 10:38 left.
“Yeah, the momentum was on our side. We just didn’t push through like we should have,” senior defensive end Joseph Evans said. “But we’re fixing to practice and come back harder next week.”
Waco’s passing game was inconsistent all game long, but the Lions needed just one play to be successful, and they got it. On second-and-28, quarterback Jaylen Harris connected with a receiver on a bubble screen, the receiver then ran 45 yards to the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. That put the Lions on top for good.
“I don’t think a lot changed, they just hit that one pass that was a screen that the linebacker overran,“ Heights head coach Jerry Edwards said. “That was the only one. I don’t remember any big passes other than that.”
Waco got on the board first. After a bizarre Heights drive that featured two fumbles and an impressive 32-yard run by Hodges, the Lions got the ball at their own 14-yard line. They responded by breaking off several big plays and punched the ball into the end zone.
But the Knights answered on the next drive. Markel Rio ran the ball in from 8 yards out and tied the game 7-7 with 2:35 left in the first quarter.
Waco running back Terrence Hamilton helped his team reclaim the lead with a 2-yard score, but Hodges responded to that almost immediately. After Tillis brought the ball to the Heights 43 on a keeper, Hodges needed just one run to tie the game at 14. He took the handoff from Tillis 57 yards to the end zone for his first touchdown of the night with 1:35 left in the first quarter.
“(We) just had a lot of mistakes, you know we were able to overcome that. We did keep the game tight, but it’s a different game if we clean up our mistakes,” Edwards said.
Andrew Piper forced a fumble early in the second quarter with a big hit on a Waco running back. The Knights took over around midfield and took full advantage of the turnover. Just two minutes later, running back Michael Collier took a handoff straight up the middle 27 yards for the score, and the Knights went up 21-14 for their first lead of the night.
With nearly five minutes left in the first half, Waco quarterback David Moreno hit receiver Michael Stimpson over the middle for 18 yards and a first down. LaDon King brought the ball to the 4-yard line. Two plays later, Hamilton muscled his way into the end zone for a touchdown with 3:46 left. The PAT was good, and Waco tied it up at 21 with 3:46 to go.
“Stopped most of the run game, they didn’t have a lot of run outside plays, so they had a little bit of trouble adjusting up the middle. But it’s the little things we need to work on,” Evans said. “Secondary, you know, stopping the pass, getting to the quarterback on the rush, you know. Stuff like that.”
It took less than 1:30 for the Lions to break the tie. Randy Carpenter broke off a 48-yard touchdown run at the 10:38 mark. Heights got the ball back, but immediately after a 9-yard run by Hodges, a bad snap led to a fumble. Waco recovered, and it took just two plays for Hamilton to bring the ball 21 yards to the end zone. For the first time all night, the game was more than just one possession away from the Knights.
Markel Rio rushed for 22 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He was helped off the field at the 7:47 mark.