A week after allowing Isiah Cowan to nearly rally Ellison to its first win, the District 8-5A road gets even rockier against Johnny Jefferson.
After leading the district in rushing through the first half of the season, the Baylor-committed tailback from Shoemaker has been supplanted following three straight sub-100 yard rushing performances.
Still, despite being limited to 190 yards through three 8-5A games after opening with nearly four times that in non-district, Jefferson (928 yards, 12 TDs) is still among the district’s most explosive and physically gifted runners.
It is for that reason the Knights coaches aren’t taking anything for granted when Jefferson’s Grey Wolves (1-5, 0-3 8-5A) host Heights (2-4, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the opening game at the new Fort Hood Stadium.
The Knights certainly had their hands full last Thursday against Ellison.
Cowan rushed for 124 yards on a career-high 40 carries but could only go backwards on fourth-and-2 in double overtime as University of Texas-committed linebacker Naashon Hughes tackled the Eagles’ workhorse for a 6-yard loss in Heights’ 25-22 double-overtime win Oct. 11 at Leo Buckley Stadium.
“I started to call timeout right at the last second, and I’m glad I didn’t because Naashon was in the right place at the right time and made the tackle,” Heights coach Mike Mullins said.
After taking a 16-0 lead two minutes into the third quarter, the Knights watched as mistakes allowed the winless Eagles to rally with a 1-yard touchdown run by Cowan and a 6-yard touchdown reception by Caleb Moses over the final 12:58 of regulation to force overtime.
“It was a tremendous effort, a tremendous job by them,” Ellison coach Buddy McBryde said. “I think we out-played Heights. We just made more mistakes than they did and it cost us.”
But once in overtime, Heights’ beleaguered offense responded, answering a 3-yard touchdown run by Cowan on Ellison’s opening possession with a 6-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Troy Smith to rarely-used receiver Trey Lockhart.
Backed into third-and-goal, Smith rolled left looking downfield, briefly thought to run for it before seeing Lockhart waving his hands in the back of the end zone.
Smith was a perfect 3-for-3 passing 47 yards in the second half and in overtime after starting the night 0 for 3 in the first half.
But, with the chance to put the game away after Ellison missed the extra point following its touchdown, Heights kicker Austin Roden shanked the extra point try to the left of the uprights to force another overtime period.
Roden would make amends though as he nailed his second 22-yard field goal of the game to go ahead 25-22 after a second false start penalty moved Heights from a 4th-and-goal from the ½-yard mark to the 5.
“Kids just had to gut it out, and, you know, it went our way,” Mullins said.
Seeing his first action of the year after breaking his left leg during the preseason, junior tailback Marcus Anderson II led the Knights with 116 yards on 19 carries, including touchdown runs of 6 and 18 yards to put Heights ahead 16-0 early in the third quarter. Terance Goodwin, who fumbled twice including one with 6½ minutes left in the fourth to set up Ellison’s game-tying score, added 58 yards on 11 carries.
Ellison rallied, though, scoring on three consecutive drives in the fourth quarter and overtime. But when it mattered, the Knights defense made the only stop it needed.
“As a defense, we knew it was going to come down to us eventually, so when we got our opportunity, we made a play,” Hughes said.