By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – The CenTex Barracudas gave and gave and gave, but they took it away at the end and beat the once-defeated Corpus Christi Hammerheads 70-60 Monday night in the regular season home finale at the Bell County Expo Center.
CenTex, which led by as much as 10 and trailed by as much as 13, had a chance to put the Hammerheads (9-2) away in the final minute, but a David Banks fumble inside the Corpus 10 gave the Hammerheads a second chance to mount a game-tying drive. But the Barracudas (8-4) defense sacked Corpus quarterback Dustin Almond in the final 20 seconds and secured the upset win.
"What it came down to was who was willing to go the ends for it," CenTex coach Chris Duliban said. "We had a couple of breaks and we made it close at the end, but that's the game of football."
The CenTex defense made multiple plays, including intercepting Almond three times, but the Corpus offense wouldn't go away and still found a way to put up 255 yards. But, after pulling to within one point, 61-60, in the final six minutes of the fourth, earned just 14 more yards and didn't score.
Banks, who finished with 56 yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries, put the Barracudas up 68-60 on a 2-yard push with 3:43 to play.
The Hammerheads mounted their first game-tying drive at the own 16 and pushed the ball upfield to the CenTex 15 with 1:54 left. Almond fumbled the snap on second-and-two, but the Hammerheads recovered.
Timmy Blackwell was tackled for another loss back to the 17. But on fourth-and-14, CenTex was drawn offsides and with a 3-yard penalty Corpus was less than a yard away from the sticks. Justin Hardman, who led the Hammerheads' rushing game with 34 yards and three scores on nine carries, went into the middle but couldn't get those extra inches.
"That play right there was one of the plays of the year," said CenTex defensive back Rolandus Johnson, who picked off Almond twice. "That play pretty much showed that we can play with the best."
On the first play of the second half, James Brown hit Olan Coleman, who had two touchdown catches and led the Barracudas receivers with four catches for 94 yards, on a 36-yard catch-and-run, but the Hammerheads responded with a 27-yard pass from Almond to Ed Giddings.
Brown then answered with his second touchdown pass to Kelvin Irving that put the Barracudas up 51-42 and Johnson grabbed his second pick on the Hammerheads' attempt to respond. But Lance Garner's 58-yard field goal fell well short and the Barracudas actually ended up losing ground on the kick after Raul Salas returned it to the CenTex 6.
Corpus scored three plays later but Coleman, who was the Week 14 IFL special teams player of the week, returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown and the Barracudas led 58-49 going into the final quarter.The two teams traded field goals and touchdowns in the fourth, but the safety was deciding difference.
"We we're saw the quarterback look left and then look right ... and he didn't have anyone open," Johnson said. "Then (the pocket) just converged and we were like 'Thank you, God.'"
Garner kicked a 30-yard field goal to give the Barracudas a 38-35 lead at halftime that capped a first half that opened with 13 consecutive points by the Hammerheads.
Corpus scored on a pair of rushing touchdowns by Hardman and Stephen Fillmore wrapped around a Brown interception, but Brown responded with a 27-yard touchdown pass to Irving late in the first quarter that led to 20 straight points for CenTex.
CenTex took its first lead after Brown connected with Reggie Smith on a 44-yard pass and David Banks put the Barracudas up, 20-13 with a 1-yard scoring dive.
But Almond answered with his first throwing score on a 32-yard pass to Nathaniel Dunn with 8:38 left to play in the first half. Then, the Hammerheads executed a momentum-grabbing onside kick, but Rolandus Johnson picked off Almond and Banks powered in from 3 yards out to give CenTex a 27-19 lead with less than 7 1/2 to play in the half.
Almond hit a wide-open Ed Giddings, who wore a Barracuda jersey last year, on a 41-yard scoring pass that tied the game at 27 and the two teams traded touchdown scores and were tied before Garner's kick.
Brown hit Coleman on an 11-yard touchdown toss and Justin Harmon answered for the Hammerheads with a 21-yard end-around sprint on fourth-and-one.
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562.