Friendswood’s Thad Horman (46) and Kyle Ford (20) zero in on Cinco Ranch QB James Klingler (12) for a loss. The Friendswood defense did all they could to battle the Cougars, but came up short 34-7 in the Class 6A Region III Div. II semifinals. Friendswood closed out the season with a 9-3 overall mark. (Photo by Bob Brown)
By DR. DAVID DAVIS
The fans for Friendswood and Cinco Ranch were hyped up for the Class 6A Region III Div. II semifinal contest at NRG Stadium.
The band was playing and the fans were cheering in anticipation for a game that would send the winner to the region finals.
Friendswood got the opening kickoff and brought the ball out to their own 25. On the first play, it wasn’t a surprise that quarterback Tyler Page would get the first carry.
However, he was held to only one yard and as he went down, his ankle got twisted in the heap of bodies.
Instead of him immediatly hopping up to get ready to run the next play, the signal-caller remained on the ground as the Friendswood trainers ran to his aid and the sound of several thousand fans on both sides was reduced to an eerie silence.
After a few moments, Page began to limp off the field with the aid of the trainers. Little did anyone realize that Page, an SMU commit, would not return as the injury would end up being the final play of his sensational high school career.
“Whenever I cut back, somebody landed on it, and I heard a pop,” a teary-eyed Page said. “I knew I would probably be out for the game because it was such an excruciating pain.
“We tried to ice it for a little bit, but I couldn’t run around on it or plant. At halftime, we knew that I wasn’t going back in.”
Of course, the unlikely injury sent Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann to the drawing board.
I’ve done the math: 87 percent of your offense is looking like he’s not going to be able to play,” Koopmann said. “He’s in tears, and he’s trying, but in the coaching world you’ve got another snap to get ready for.
“We’d been working with (Justin) Karam and (Koleman) Bell, and you just try to work some sort of combination.”
Friendswood, who is known for not giving up, was determined to play with pride and determination despite the absence of their fallen leader.
The Mustangs trailed only 14-0 at halftime, but their offensive totals of two first downs and only 42-yards proved how much Page was missed.
“I didn’t see anyone quit out there – it could have gotten ugly, it could have gotten bad,” Koopmann said. “I thought we played well, defensively, for the situation of us not being able to make first downs and move the ball.
“We played hard, though. That’s what Friendswood kids do – they competed every doggone snap.”
Trailing 21-0 in the third quarter, Friendswood finally got on the scoreboard when Elijah Blackburn broke a 61-yard dash for a touchdown. Cody Williamson hit the PAT to cut the lead to 21-7 with 10:02 left in the third quarter.
Cinco Ranch would add two more scores, one in the third and one with 8:03 left in the game to post the 34-7 final score.
Friendswood finished with 190 total yards with 134 on the ground and 56 passing.
Karam was 9-of-22 passing for 56 yards.
Blackburn finished with 70 yards rushing on five carries and a TD while Calvin Whitaker had one carry for 12 yards. Bell had three totes for nine yards.
We lose two offensive linemen, two defensive ends and then the quarterback goes down,” Koopmann said. “We just can’t sustain that. … The kids battled hard, but the injuries certainly put a damper on everyone.”
Friendswood ends the season with a 9-3 overall record, and will graduate 46 seniors from its 70-player varsity roster.