With 1:36 left in the Class 5A Div. I state semifinals and trailing 34-31, most of the Pearland fans at Waco ISD Stadium were holding their breath wondering if the Oilers could pull a rabbit out of the hat to keep their hopes alive to play for another state championship.
Pearland took the lead on a 12-yard run by junior running back JaColbie Butler with 5:26 left in the final period making the score 27-31. San Antonio Madison, who led for most of the game, answered with a touchdown of their own to take the lead 34-31.
But Pearland was not going to throw in the towel even when they trailed 17-3 in the first half.
Head coach Tony Heath has built his coaching philosophy around playing for 48 minutes. However, that theory was heavily tested when Madison answered with a touchdown of their own with 1:51 left in the game when QB Cody Ennis tossed a pass in the corner of the Pearland end zone for a 22-yard touchdown to Byron Daniels giving the Mavericks a 34-31 lead.
“They’ve never given up,” Heath said. “They play for four quarters. We preach 48 minutes. That’s the last thing I’ll say – 48 minutes to play and you have a lifetime to remember it.”
There is no doubt that the Oilers play for 48 minutes as they almost stretched out the game as far as they could before punching in the winning touchdown.
It looked like Pearland’s season was coming to an end as the Oilers kickoff team took the field. There is no question that there were some saying, “If only we could run this kickoff back for a touchdown.”
Those who said or thought it got an early Christmas present as Jacoby Lewis caught the kickoff over his right shoulder at the 3-yard line, did a little spin, and started up the field. As Lewis moved to the left side line, a Madison defender took aim to thwart Lewis’ progress, but Justin Phillips came in at just the right time to smash the Madison player into the ground, which created a small opening for Lewis to blow through as more blockers created space.
Lewis moved as close to the left sideline as possible, did a little toe-dance to stay in bounds, and then picked up his stride to race down the field for the game-winning score while sending the Pearland coaches, players, and fans into a frenzy.
“I remember being there (Cowboys Stadium) – I took a picture with my older brother and I said, ‘One day, I’m going to be here, bro,'” said senior linebacker Justin Phillips, who led a defense that stopped Madison on fourth down three times in the final seven minutes. “I have everybody with me on my side. Everybody has the same dream, the same goal, and it’s amazing that we’re going to go on to state.”
The Oilers scored first on a 33-yard field goal with 4:09 left in the opening period.
But the Mavericks came back with a field goal of their own covering 36-yards to knot up the game at 3-3.
Madison either scored or set up a score on a couple of freak plays.
The first touchdown of the game was a 71-yard scoring pass from Ennis to Ja’Michael Brown covering 71-yards. However, Brown had a defensive back draped around him, but Brown somehow slithered out of the grasp to cover the final 20 yards for the score and a 10-3 lead.
The next Madison score was set up by a fluke interception that bounced off the hands of a Pearland receiver and right into the waiting arms of a Madison defensive back who raced to the Pearland 14 setting up an eventual 3-yard score by Dominique Daniels for a 17-3 advantage with 4:21 remaining in the first half.
Despite the strange happenings, Pearland quarterback Connor Heath took control of the offense and methodically completed several passes to the Madison 45.
Heath dropped back on a pass play, moved around the pocket as the pressure began to unfold, and spotted Conner Chidester who was waving his arms with no one around him inside the 10-yard line. Heath lofted a soft pass and Chidester gathered it in to waltz into the end zone with 2:27 left before intermission. Keller booted the PAT leaving the Oilers trailing only 17-10 with the momentum shifting toward Pearland.
After the Pearland defense forced Madison to punt on their opening possession of the first half, the Oilers took over at their own 26. On the third play, the Oilers fumbled allowing Madison to recover at the Pearland 28. Four plays later, Ennis plowed his way for a 3-yard touchdown giving the Mavs a 24-10 lead with 9:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Just when it looked like Madison was going to seal the contest, Pearland got new life as Heath stepped up to lead the Oilers to two straight scores. Lewis scored on a 9-yard fake reverse and Zach Boegler rammed his way for a 3-yard touchdown to tie up the game at 24-24 with 1:11 left in the third quarter.
Madison drove down the field after the ensuing kickoff, but stalled at the Pearland 14 and had to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Torres to regain the lead at 27-24 with 10:22 remaining in the game.
But the Oilers weren’t going to be denied as JaColbie Butler scored on a 12-yard run that was set up with a 24-yard Heath completion to Jonathan Sam at the Mavs 12.
It appeared that Madison would have the last say in the outcome of the game after Ennis drove the Mavs down the field to score with 1:51 left in the game for the 34-31 lead, but the never-say-die Oilers knocked off Madison with Lewis’ 97-yard kickoff return to put the nail in the coffin to advance to the 5A Div. I state finals for the second time in PHS school history.
QB Connor Heath had his best day thus far hitting 23-of-36 passing for 243 yards and one touchdown.
Connor Chidester had four catches for 81 yards and one score. Carter Jefferson had three grabs for 27 yards. Ryan Diaz had three receptions for 32 yards.
Hayden Cole had 15 carries for 60 yards. Butler had 13 carries for 42 yards and one score. Lewis had five totes for 49 yards and one TD.
The Pearland offense racked up 408 total yards while SA Madison had 389 total yards.