Lions defeat Mustangs 42-14 to earn playoff bid
By Alonzo Garza
Nearly perfect football weather and a clear home-field advantage revitalized the Lions as they squared off with the Manor Mustangs in the final game of the regular season on Nov. 6. From the coin toss to the final touchdown on the season, the Lions roared triumphantly, defeating the Mustangs 42-14 to cinch a spot in the playoffs.
“I am so proud of this team,” Lion Head Football Coach Robin Rapp said. “I felt our kids responded with a championship performance in a ‘must win’ situation and I thought our senior leadership did an outstanding job of bringing the excitement and enthusiasm to the game. That energy is what we needed Friday night and we got it. It was a team effort all the way. Defense provided big plays all night long. We had interceptions, one for a touchdown. In the second half John Barron made a touchdown saving tackle at the 2-yard line, which allowed our entire defense to make a goal line stance. It was great.”
The normally-swift Mustangs never found their rhythm as a team, while the Lions took every opportunity to shine as a well-oiled machine with a cohesive purpose.
The Lions’ domination started in the first quarter. They scored 21 points while holding the Mustangs out of the end zone for the entire quarter.
Lockhart scored their first touchdown early in the quarter when fullback Dylan Messerly intercepted a first-and-ten pass by the Mustangs at the 23-yard line. Messerly ran the ball in for an early lead, while a good kick by Brooks Pittman put the Lions up 7-0 with 8:20 in the quarter.
The Lions’ next scoring drive started at the 47-yard line and ended with Dominique Hardaway crossing the goal line from two yards out to increase the Lions’ lead. Pittman offered another solid field goal kick, leaving the score at 14-0 with 2:49 left in the quarter.
With 1:21 left on the clock, the Lions gained possession once again. Trapped at the Manor 46, Hardaway made a 49-yard pass to Kendall Till for first-and-goal at the 5-yard line. Hardaway later carried the ball the final five yards for a touchdown, followed up by another good kick from Pittman, closing the quarter’s scoring at 21-0.
The second quarter also started with an interception by the Lions. Jacob Alvarez made the play.
Manor called a time out at the top of the quarter and then Alvarez intercepted the Mustang’s first attempted pass for a Lion first-and-ten at the Manor 23-yard line. After a Lockhart time out, Hardaway pushed through for the fourth Lion touchdown with 11:50 remaining.
The Mustangs received an off sides penalty, as well as a personal foul when Hardaway was hit after making the touchdown.
Later in the quarter, Messerly recovered a Manor fumble for a first-and-ten at the 49-yard line, giving the Lions an opportunity to score again. The Lions faced a strong Mustang defense and eventually punted with five minutes remaining in the first half.
Manor pushed forward after taking over possession of the ball at their own 20-yard line. Lion John Madrigal sacked Mustang quarterback L.D. Williams at 3:33.
Determined to score, the Mustangs continued to push forward until they scored their first of two touchdowns for a score of 28-7.
The Lions soon answered with a touchdown of their own. Hardaway scrambled 80 yards to the end zone, improving his own statistics and increasing the Lions’ lead, which was 35-7 after another solid kick from Pittman.
The Mustangs answered right back with scoring drive from the Lion 34 that ended in another touchdown, closing scoring at 35-14 for the half.
After the break, both teams returned to the field strong on the defense, but lacking the offensive power to break through to the end zone.
Penalties continued to plague the Mustangs, and the Lions relied on their ground game, but neither team was able to score in the third.
In the final quarter of the regular season, the Lions roared into action with renewed determination. With 11:16 remaining in the season, Hardaway ran in a fourth and final touchdown, and Pittman delivered another solid extra-point kick, ending the scoring at 42-14.
Although the scoring was done, the action was far from finished. Manor continued to get penalty flags for a variety of infractions. The worst penalty came two minutes into the quarter when a Mustang started a fight near the end zone. The Manor player was ejected from the game and both teams got personal foul penalties after a brief meeting by the officials.
However, when all was said and done, the Lions earned a bid to the playoffs with the 42-14 victory.
Hardaway rushed for a whopping 179 yards in 27 carries, and added a completed 49-yard pass to his stat sheet. Quarterback Tyler Tolley covered 50 yards with four completed passes on seven attempts, and rushed for 30 yards on seven carries.
Receivers Kendall Till, Brian Martinez and Karl Grieger contributed to the Lion win by receiving passes successfully. Till covered 56 yards with two receptions, Martinez earned 29 with two also and Grieger gained 14 yards with one reception.
The Lions will face Waller in a Bi-District playoff game at the Ricebird Stadium in El Campo on Friday, Nov. 13. The Lions will be the visitors.
“Waller is a good football team,” Rapp said. “They started the season 0-6 and have won the last four games. They have a strong running game with a fast quarterback who ran for about 220 yards on 17 carries. They beat Brenham 15-14 last Friday, so they are a talented team on a four game winning steak. Waller will be a formidable opponent, but that is what you get in a playoff game. We look forward to playing them on Friday. We’re ready.”
Ricebird Stadium is located at the corner of Rose Mary and Pecan Streets in El Campo, Texas. From Lockhart, travel south to Luling to access I-10. Follow I-10 east to exit 696, and merge onto TX-71 East toward Columbus/El Campo. Turn right to stay on TX-71 and continue for 37.4 miles. Turn right on Avenue C in El Campo, then take the first right on Pecan Street, followed by the third left, Rose Mary Street. Travel time is an estimated two hours and 30 minutes.
Kickoff is scheduled at 7:30 p.m.
See you at the game.