By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE - Maybe the number can make all the difference.
After changing jerseys late in the fourth quarter, switching to No. 3 after his usual No. 9 got torn, Gatesville junior quarterback Cole Edmiston was a perfect 4-for-4 for 132 yards and touchdowns of 45 and 77 yards to force overtime against upstart Salado.
Once there, Edmiston made only one throw - a 6-yard touchdown strike to Taylor Donaldson - and kicker Sebastian Corrales gave Gatesville the slightest of margins with his sixth extra point of the night as the Hornets fought back from a 28-7
third-quarter deficit to win 35-34 on Friday night at McKamie Stadium.
"We just stuck with it, we always say 'Hornet fight never dies' and that right there just proved what we're all about," said Edmiston, who finished 12-of-27 for 197 yards passing and three touchdowns - 9-of-15 and 179 yards coming in the second half.
"Maybe we might put him in (No.) 3 next week, I don't know," Gatesville coach Kyle Cooper joked. "He's just a fighter, got great character, he's a competitor and just does a great job trailing with that. His color shined when the chips were down."
It was a major flip from the first half when it was Salado's passing attack that seemed unstoppable.
Eagles junior quarterback Mike Richardson - who missed last week after receiving 13 stitches in his left (non-throwing) hand in Week 0 - had nine straight completions and for 277 yards with three first-half touchdowns and a 2-yard run for another score as Salado led 28-7 with 9:46 left in the third. Richardson finished 16-of-26 for 345 yards but completed just two of his final seven passes following a pivotal fourth-quarter interception.
"The first half was a great half, and we were on," Salado coach Glenn Talbott said. "But they really brought the heat in the second half and they got to us a little bit more and pressured us more."
Richardson had plenty of help from his receivers as senior Joe Owens made two over-the-shoulder receptions for scores in the first half, including an incredible 60-yard touchdown that he pulled in with one hand to give the Eagles a 20-7 lead 35 seconds before halftime.
It was the second straight game that Salado has allowed a fourth-quarter rally to lose. Rockdale scored the final 17 points in a 51-42 win a week earlier.
"We just made some adjustments in our secondary and kept those kids believing and they believed in themselves and believed in their teammates, and we found a way to slow down their air attack," Cooper said.
But it was Gatesville's big play potential that turned things around as senior Garrett Featherston broke through the Eagles defense for a 27-yard touchdown scamper with 1:24 left in the third quarter enciting the turnaround according the Edmiston.
After that, Edmiston found senior receiver Marqueese Phillips on a 45-yard strike to pull within a score of tying it up.
Following Richardson's lone mistake of the night - a lofting pass that J.D. Nolte stepped in front of Owens for the interception in the end zone - Edmiston needed only two plays to tie the game.
After a short completion to Phillips, Edmiston hit Featherston over the middle to split the Salado defense, taking it 77 yards to the house to make it 28-all with 3:17 left in regulation.
Getting the ball first, Gatesville had two first-down runs from running back Caleb Pratt before Edmiston found Donaldson on a curl route.
Salado made it exciting as Richardson hit Austin Silva for a 10-yard completion on fourth-and-10, and then backup quarterback Ryan Simmons ran it in from 7 yards out to pull within an extra point of forcing a second OT. But a botched snap on a two-point conversion ended it before the Eagles even had a chance to run a play.