By DR. DAVID DAVIS
How close was it? Some said two yards, others said a yard. A mere 12 inches from getting the first football state title in Manvel’s young history.
The Mavs have had close opportunities in the past, but none that would come within a foot of becoming the state’s best team at the end of a single season.
Manvel had a chance in 2011 when they faced two-time defending state champion Aledo, but came up short 49-28. Aledo has seven state football titles.
But this season was different. Sure the Mavs were facing the Class 5A Division I defending state champion Highland Park Scots who is the state’s winningest football program of any class. They have been to the throne room in the past while accumulating 815 total wins. No other team has crossed the 800 win mark in the history of Texas football and the Scots were looking for win No. 816 and four state championships in 1945, 1957, 2005, and 2016.
The Mavs had one hand on the state championship trophy for 47 minutes and 26 seconds to be exact out of 48 minutes.
But with :34 seconds left in the game, Highland Park’s Cade Saustad caught a 16-yard scoring strike from quarterback John Stephen Jones giving the Scots their first lead of the game 53-49.
In a minute and one second, the Scots marched 87-yards in seven plays to trim the lead to 49-46 with 2:06 left to play.
Then the game was actually reduced to one play. All 28,000 plus fans knew what was coming next. The only hope that was left for the Scots was to recover the upcoming onside kick.
If Manvel recovers, they return home as state champions. If Highland Park recovers, they still have a chance to pull a victory out of the jaws of defeat.
Of course, as they say, Highland Park got the bounce they needed to get the ball back as the 6-foot, five-inch Saustad leaped high in the air to snag the ball for the Scots at the Manvel 45.
It was a loss of possession on the onside kick that allowed Highland Park to go another 45 yards in nine plays to take the only lead it needed 53-49.
With 28 seconds remaining on the clock, Manvel quarterback Kason Martin put his team on his back for a last-second chance to pull out a win. He connected with Deneric Prince for 22 yards and then Jalen Preston for 19 to put the Mavericks at the Scots 31 with 15 seconds left.
With two plays left in the season, Martin first aired it out to Preston again, who caught it right at the pylon but was ruled out of bounds.
On the second attempt, Martin again found Preston, this time in bounds. But Preston was 1-yard away from the goal line and 1-yard away from an undefeated season and a state title.
In need of a touchdown with eight seconds left in Friday night’s Class 5A Division I state championship game, Manvel quarterback Kason Martin rolled to his left and heaved up one final prayer in the direction of star wideout Jalen Preston.
Preston, an A&M commit, caught the pass near the goal line with safety James Herring holding Preston in his arms. Despite the secondary’s struggles throughout the game, the unit needed just one stop from its best defender.
Herring dug his feet in at the one-yard line as Preston came down with the ball and pushed Manvel’s star receiver away from the end zone.
The stop secured a thrilling 53-49 win for Highland Park and gave the Scots their second consecutive state championship.
Herring’s tackle on the final play of the game put an end to a second half that featured a combined 71 points between the teams. Jones, the grandson of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, finished with 564 yards and four touchdowns through the air while Saustad had 12 catches for 220 yards and three touchdowns receiving.
Martin (483 yards, five touchdowns) and Preston (220 yards, three touchdowns) matched the Highland Park duo punch for punch throughout the game, but the Scots’ defense rose to the occasion.
Manvel took the first lead of the game on a 1-yard run by Garrison Johnson with 6:53 remaining in the first quarter. Highland Park tied it five minutes later on a 73-yard pass from Jones to Cade Saustad.
The Mavericks went back ahead 14-7 on a 69-yard pass from Martin to Preston with 1:34 to go in the first quarter. Manvel went ahead by two touchdowns with 6:28 left in the second quarter on a 78-yard pass from Martin to Terrence Norman.
The Scots salvaged a field goal just before halftime and the Mavs held a 21-10 lead at the break.
From there, the teams traded touchdowns. Jones completed a 10-yard pass to Paxton Alexander to cut the Manvel lead to 21-18 after a two-point conversion with 10:30 left in the third quarter. A 7-yard pass from Martin to Preston made it 28-18 with 6:47 to go in the third.
Jay Smith caught a 4-yard pass from Jones to cut the Mavericks’ lead back to three at 28-25 with 4:27 remaining in the third. Martin answered with a 62-yard pass to Colbey Washington to make it 35-25.
Benner Page ran it in from 6-yards out to pull the Scots to within three again at 35-32 with 11:16 left in the fourth quarter. The Mavericks answered quickly with Martin and Preston hooking up for a state title-game record 95-yard touchdown pass to make it 42-32.
Jones connected with Saustad from 9-yards out to pull the Scots within 42-39 before Kam Scott’s 97-yard kickoff return made it a 10-point lead again at 49-39 with 6:27 left in the game.
“That’s a tough way to lose,” Manvel head coach Kirk Martin said. “I thought our kids played their guts out, but it just wasn’t meant to be, I guess.”
Manvel finished with a total of 640 while Highland Park piled up 646 total yards.
The Mavs have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of as they gave it everything they had plus some.
The Mavs finish 14-1 for the 2017 season.