When the 2013 football season began, no one had Pearland ranked in the Top 25 in the state and the Oilers were certainly not only anyone’s state final list.
However, Pearland head coach Tony Heath, who just completed his 17th year at the helm of the Oilers didn’t figure his team would make it to AT&T Stadium in Arlington to battle for the 5A Division I state championship either. But he knew he had a special group of kids who were different than the team that lost in the first round of the playoffs to Deer Park in 2012.
“I have been asked a dozen times about our upcoming season, but the answer is always the same,” Heath said back in August at the Rotary Club pre-season luncheon. “We are going to take one game at a time and let the season take care of itself.”
But Heath also leaked some added information regarding his 2013 squad.
“These kids come to practice to work hard every day,” Heath said. “I am excited about these kids because they care about one another and they want to be successful as a team and not on an individual basis. They have an excitement about them that makes it fun coaching.”
Hard work and fun is how the 2013 Pearland Oilers began the season and you could see it as a fan as each game progressed this season.
While the Oilers weren’t considered a state finalist team in August, there was something that began to really happen after the Oilers closed out the regular season with a win over Pasadena Dobie.
It was if a new battery was installed in each player and some even played with an unexplainable amount of adrenaline that had been injected in their system.
From the beginning of the playoffs, the Oilers found a new gear that exceeded one game after another while staying focused on winning one game at a time as Heath preached daily to his team. And each game took care of itself just as Heath told them.
With a national-record crowd of 54,347 in attendance at AT&T Stadium in Arlington to watch No. 1 state-ranked Allen and Pearland, the outcome of the game was as most predicted. Yes – the Eagles took out the Oilers in a lopsided final score.
But there wasn’t anything lopsided as far as the overall effort by the Oilers as they battled down to the final minute when senior QB Connor Heath hit Ryan Deshotel on a 4-yard pass for a touchdown with exactly 1:00 remaining on the game clock in the final period to close the gap to 63-28.
For 17 years, Heath has preached playing all 48 minutes and the Oilers did that. Pearland scored first in the game as the young Heath guided the offense down the field against the No. 1 team in the state with perfection hitting 6-of-6 passing capped off with a perfectly thrown 12-yard pass to senior WR Carter Jefferson for the touchdown, despite the defensive back putting his hand in Carter’s face.
The 81-yard scoring drive took 11 plays for a 7-0 lead at the 7:23 mark of the opening quarter.
The quick scoring offense of Allen took less than a minute to answer to tie up the game 7-7.
After the Oilers were forced to punt on their second possession, Allen drove the ball to the Pearland 3, but the Oilers Justin Phillips stripped the ball from the Allen ball carrier and returned it 86-yards to the Eagles 13. Zach Boegler punched it in on a 1-yard plunge to give the Oilers a 14-7 lead with 1:40 left in the opening period.
It took Allen only 21 seconds to respond as Chad Adams returned the kickoff 83-yards for the score to knot up the game at 14-14.
That would be as close as Pearland would get as the Eagles spread their wings to outscore the Oilers 28-0 to build a 42-14 lead before Pearland was able to score again, this time using a Tim Tebow signature play as Boegler took the fourth down snap at the Allen 5-yard line, ran to the middle of the line, and then jumped in the air to find a wide-open Hayden Cole in the end zone for the touchdown to cut the lead to 42-21.
The Eagles would put 21 more points on the board before the Oilers scored their final touchdown making the final score 63-28.
While the 2013 Oilers won’t be remembered as state champions, they will be remembered as a team that played united as a team and beat the odds to finish as the state runner-up in 5A Div. I.
The Oilers defense set a new PHS school-record with 34 pass interceptions which was tops in the state of any class.
The big picture is that in 1997, coach Heath took over a team that had a 19-game losing streak, a 6-63-1 mark from 1990-1996, and hadn’t won a district game in three years; but 17 years later, the Oilers have won four 5A Region III titles, two state semifinals, and one state championship while playing in another state title game.
The fan base has also been tremendous and hats off to the Pearland faithful who traveled to Arlington to support this band of warriors.
The Pearland cheerleaders, Prancers, and band also make Pearland proud each time they perform. All did a first-class job in Arlington and it was evident that we have been there before. Thanks to the leadership of all of these organizations.
While there are those who would like to put a damper on Pearland’s accomplishments this season based on the state finals, please see the big picture and remember how much fun these Oilers have been to watch and share in their dramatic moments in victory.
Remember that Pearland won 14 games and lost only two this season. Cast your attention on the moments of victory and set your sights on another great season in 2014.
Thank you coach Heath, your coaching staff, and all the players this season for overcoming the odds and providing us with scores of exciting moments in victory and defeat. You are all very special to us and you will be long remembered for the thrills you gave us. We are Pearland proud!