LEANDER — It’s the intangibles, Temple head coach Mike Spradlin said, that makes 7-on-7 fun to play and to watch.
Neither the Wildcats nor the Belton Tigers were very fond them of Saturday.
Temple blew an 18-point lead and Houston Stratford stunned the Wildcats with a 34-31 win in a second-round championship bracket game Saturday at the 7-on-7 State Tournament at Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.
“We didn’t execute well. Had dropped balls, I threw a couple of bad balls, but we live to fight another day,” said Temple junior quarterback Chad President.
The Tigers rallied from a 12-0 deficit, took a 14-12 lead in the second half, but Weslaco scored the final 24 points of the game to hand Belton a loss in the consolation quarterfinals for the second straight year.
“I think we had a drive to come out here and win as many games as we could,” said Belton quarterback Shane Stafford. “Overall, I think we played great. And the positive attitude was outstanding.”
Belton beat Jersey Village, 26-19, and Houston Reagan, 32-21 to reach the third round of the consolation bracket, and finish 3-3 overall at the tournament.
Temple held on to beat El Paso Montwood, 40-39, when Michael Hicks batted down the potential game-tying conversion throw on the final play.
Dominick Thompson scored a defensive touchdown on an interception, his second in two days, that gave the Wildcats a 40-33 lead after a failed conversion. Montwood took over with just under 3 minutes to go and scored inside the final minute, threatening to send the game into overtime. But Hicks’ heroics abruptly quashed the threat.
“Without (my teammates), I couldn’t have made that play,” Hicks said. “After I made that play, I thought, ‘I got to save the day, I got to make the winning play.’”
On the heels of the win, Temple sped out to an 18-7 half-time lead against Stratford and then stretched that to 25-7 after President’s touchdown pass to Aaron Freeman to cap the first series of the second half. But Stratford didn’t go away.
“We had momentum coming in; we just won a big game. That helped us a little bit,” President said. “We just came out and executed in the first half. In the second half, we just died down.”
The Spartans scored the next 20 points to take a 27-25 lead as Temple’s offense bogged down.
President put the Wildcats back on top 31-27, with a touchdown throw to Deangelo Behl. Stratford regained the lead two plays later and the Wildcats’ two final drives both came up empty.
“Bottom line is we just lost our focus in the second half and dropped footballs and threw some bad balls and the next thing you know, they’re scoring and now you’ve got a ballgame,” Spradlin said. “You just learn from that and move on. Seven-on-7 will never define us, only unless we let it be negative, and we’re not going to let it do that.”
Stratford lost to Southlake Carroll 46-27 in the championship game, while Weslaco lost to eventual consolation champion A&M Consolidated 38-19 in the semifinals. Consolidated beat Arlington Lamar 42-34 in the consolation title game.
Stafford threw touchdown throws to Andre Hughes and Chad Rylander after the Tigers fell behind 19-14 late to Jersey Village. His throw to Hughes gave Belton a slim 20-19 lead when the conversion failed and his throw to Rylander pushed the lead to seven, 26-19, but the win wasn’t secured until the final horn buzzed five plays into Jersey Village’s last drive.
“We didn’t want to go home after just one game today. We had more desire to win,” said Belton defensive back Matt Chapman, who had two interceptions in the Tigers’ 32-21 win over Reagan.
The Tigers fell behind 12-0 early to Weslaco, but Stafford, who threw two interceptions to start the game, completed a touchdown pass to Brandon Rhoads to pull within 12-7. He looked to have another, this one to Andre Hughes just before halftime, but it was waved off because officials reversed their ruling on the previous play.
Weslaco was originally called for defensive pass interference as the halftime buzzer sounded. The Tigers were allowed one more play, which Stafford used to throw the go-ahead touchdown to Hughes. But, after further discussion, the officials waved off the score and reversed the previous pass interference call to a four-second violation against Stafford.
“I think if would’ve got that, we would’ve had the momentum going into the second half getting the ball,” Stafford said. “It was a tough call. … If we would’ve got that touchdown, it would’ve made a huge difference.”
The Tigers came out and scored on the first series of the second half to take a 14-12 lead. The Tigers didn’t pick up a single first down after that, much less score and Weslaco scored on three of its final four drives and picked up a safety as well.