LEANDER — Kase Spears contorted his body as much as he could as he dove to the ground.
The throw was accurate, but low and in the only spot Salado quarterback McLane Carter could have put it.
But it was not enough. The ball went through Spears’ outstretched hands and tumbled onto the grass end over end.
After rallying to score in the final minute, Salado’s two-point conversion failed and it lost 41-40 in overtime to Fairfield in the 2013 Division II consolation quarterfinals at the 7-on-7 state tournament at Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.
“There was no excuse, I should have caught it,” Spears said. “It is disappointing. ... Our offense was clicking, though, and we just played better today.”
Spears got the Eagles going early, scoring the first two touchdowns as Salado traded scores with Fairfield in the early going. Davis Little put the Eagles up 20-14 just before the half, hauling in a pass with less than a minute remaining. However, Fairfield tied the game coming out of the half and forced Salado to a three-and-out, eventually taking the lead 34-26 with less than a minute to go. Spears stepped up, catching a deep bomb from Carter to pull the Eagles within 34-32. He then pulled in the two-point conversion to tie the game and force overtime.
“I think we are still learning,” Salado coach Brent Graham said. “When it comes down to an overtime matchup, the ball was right there and we went for the win and Kase had his hands on it.
“It was a tough play, but there is a reason it came down to overtime. ... We are not ashamed of what we have done out here and it is just the beginning and we are looking forward to the fall.”
Cameron Yoe lost in similar fashion in the consolation quarterfinals to McGregor, falling 42-41. Little River-Academy lost in the first round, 18-13 to Crandall and Rockdale lost in the second round of the championship bracket to Dallas Episcopal 46-14. The Tigers defeated All Saints Academy 39-34 in the opening round of bracket play.
After only going 1-2 in its pool Thursday, Salado rallied for back-to-back wins Friday, defeating Gatesville 27-14 and Alpine 44-39 to advance to the semifinals.
“Sometimes our offense is working and sometimes our defense is working,” rising senior Chase Crenwelge said. “I think today, for a big part of the time, we had both of them working.”
Spears, along with Crenwelge, carried the load for the Eagles receivers on the day. The rising senior scored nine touchdowns, including three against Alpine. Spears first touchdown against the Bucks put Salado up 14-12. Crenwelge, who scored the Eagles’ initial touchdown, also scored the next two touchdowns to put Salado up 26-18. The Bucks’ Evan Moore tossed touchdown passes to Jonathan Frost and Abel Silvas to cut the Eagles’ lead to 38-33, but again, Crenwelge came though, catching a pass in the middle of the field for the game-clinching score.
“I am usually a running back; it is fun to just go out there and catch some balls,” Crenwelge said. “It is a fun game. McLane (Carter) is so far ahead of most junior quarterbacks. He has been making throws out there and showing leadership out there you would expect from a senior and his has not even started his junior year, yet.”
Salado started its day with a win over struggling Gatesville, which went 0-4 at the tournament after qualifying at the McGregor qualifier early in the season.
“After yesterday, I told them I want to see attitude and energy,” Gatesville coach Kyle Cooper said. “I thought our kids came out and showed that today. We got out there and competed and that showed a lot. It reveals a lot about where we are. There is so much more to 7-on-7 than pitch, catch and cover.”
Carter connected with Spears for three touchdowns in the comeback win, which saw the Eagles take a 13-0 lead early only to fall behind 14-13 just after halftime. The Hornets took the lead when backup quarterback Jeff Speer, who is nursing a sore arm, found Wallace open down the middle for a score. Gatesville scored its first touchdown when Collin Hallgarth hit Andrew Wallace. Salado rallied, though, as Spears caught his third touchdown pass and Davis Little hauled in a score.
“I think we have come a long way in a short amount of time,” Graham said. “I was blessed to be able to come in the spring and we are still trying to secure a different mindset. Our approach everyday is a little different and we are work in process.
“We are under construction.”
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569