This was supposed to be the year that the Manvel Mavericks would finally see that the stars are lined up in their favor for a first-ever state football championship.
No Katy. No Aledo. No Cy-Ranch.
Those are the teams that Manvel wasn’t able to hurdle in their quest for a first-ever state football title over the last five years.
Manvel has fallen to the Katy Tigers the past three years (2013-15) in the Class 6A Region III Div. II finals.
In 2012, the Mavericks saw Cy-Ranch come from a 42-28 deficit with only 2:44 left in the game to pull out a shocking 43-42 win to eliminate the Mavs in the 5A Region III Div. II semifinals in 2012.
In 2011, Aledo stood in the way of Manvel in the Class 4A Div. II state finals with the Mavs coming up short 49-28.
Manvel is a young school, but they have already brought home a state title in girls basketball (2012-2013) after defeating state-power Duncanville and a 6A state track championship in 2015 and runner-up at state in 2016.
But every school dreams of bringing home a state championship in football.
Manvel entered the game against the Temple Wildcats (11-3) as a heavy favorite having outscored their Houston opponents 647-160 this season while posting a perfect 13-0 mark. The Mavs have been to six state quarterfinals in the past seven years.
However, Temple was not to be taken for granted as head coach Scott Stewart said, “I told our guys to embrace the fact that nobody thought we could win. People said we couldn’t beat Port Arthur Memorial (39-7) and they said there was no way we could beat Manvel. This proves when you believe in something, you’re really hard to beat. We don’t do doubt. That’s a luxury we don’t have. I’ll put Temple kids up against anybody.”
The win gave Temple their second 5A Region III Div. I championship in three seasons to advance to face the Foster Falcons (14-0) this coming weekend. The Wildcats beat Foster 27-7 last year in the Region III semifinals.
“I can’t give Manvel enough credit, because they’re as good a high school football team as I think I’ve ever seen,” Stewart said.
Manvel managed only one score in the first which gave them a 7-3 lead after Temple had driven deep in Mavs territory but had to settle for a field goal.
With 5:39 left before halftime, the Wildcats went ahead 9-7 on an 18-yard scoring strike from QB Reid Hesse to D’Yonte Heckstall. The PAT missed the mark.
In the first half’s final minute Temple sophomore Jared Wiley punted for 49 yards to the Manvel 2-yard line and the Wildcats swarmed dynamic Mavs junior Jalen Preston at his 1 with 22 seconds left.
On the next snap Preston tried to the right side from the Wildcat formation, but senior end AJ Gulley grabbed Preston and junior tackle Robert Jackson drove him into the end zone turf for a safety – Temple’s third in two weeks – and an 11-7 halftime lead.
That safety would prove vital to the eventual outcome of the game.
In the second half, Manvel closed the gap to 11-10 on a field goal, but Temple came back to increase the lead to 18-10 after Hesse’s 11-yard scoring pass to Zach Rumfield with 4 minutes left in the third quarter, but talent-laden Manvel roared back with 13 consecutive points.
Preston showed off his blazing speed while returning the ensuing kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown, and Kason Martin threw to Keylon Stokes for a 72-yard TD and a 23-18 Mavericks advantage as the third quarter ended.
Manvel’s defense came up with some key plays to thwart Temple from scoring addition points especially with Derrick Tucker coming up with two key interceptions giving him seven on the season and three in the past two games.
But the Wildcats’ active, athletic defense shut out Manvel in the final quarter, and Temple moved from its 46 to the Mavs’ 25 before Hesse hit Heckstall for 6 yards on fourth-and-5 to keep the drive alive in the final period.
Hesse then lofted a high fade pass to the right and Heckstall muscled the ball away from defensive back Kameron Pedescleaux just inside the goal line for the decisive touchdown, making it 24-23 with 3:05 left after the 2-point pass failed.
Down by a point with three minutes remaining, Manvel quickly drove from its 25 to Temple’s 48, but the Wildcats’ defense stiffened and forced the Mavericks into fourth-and-11.
Martin dropped back to pass but the blitzing Temple defense was right in his face and took him to the turf at the Manvel 35, igniting a wild celebration on Temple’s side to seal the victory.
“We didn’t win it all, so I feel like I failed. It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Manvel coach Kirk Martin. “(This is a) really, really special football team and I let them down today.
“We just came out and played awful offensively. Defensively, we came out and got after (Temple) in the first half and we played fairly well in the second half. But offensively we stunk the place up and that’s my fault. We just really struggled moving the football and scoring points.”
Most of Manvel’s players – thoroughly dominant all season – crumpled to the turf afterward in a combination of disbelief and disappointment.