Knights power past Rangers to advance, make history as first 12-game winner

Dave Winter, MacJournalism adviser

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JB Faught leads the charge out of the tunnel as the Knights take the field before the opening kickoff. Photo by Charlie Holden.

The Knights led the Rosenberg Terry Rangers 28-17 at halftime of the Region IV quarterfinal on Friday night at Navasota High School.

With another solid half of football, the team would reach 12-0 and secure its place as the winningest varsity football team in the school’s 64-year history.

But the players on the team weren’t thinking about reaching that pinnacle. Instead their thoughts drifted to the area semifinal the year before.

The Knights led that game in Floresville against Victoria East by a similar score, 30-17, with less than a minute left in the third quarter, only to see the lead and the game slip away, sending the team into an agonizingly long offseason until it could take the field this season and try to get back to the same spot in the playoffs.

Max Perez had huge production in the history making game, playing a part in four touchdowns while rushing for 182 yards and passing for 86. Photo by Bella Russo.

“[Last year’s loss] was all we talked about coming in from halftime,” senior running back Alexander Julian said. “We wrote it on the whiteboard and everything.”

Even with that motivation, the Knights’ victory was not automatic in the second half. After Julian’s 11-yard touchdown run made it 35-17, the Rangers clawed their way back in the game on Amon Byar’s 5-yard touchdown that cut the Knights’ lead to 11 with seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

After pinning the Knights inside their own 10-yard line on the ensuing kickoff, the Rangers forced a McCallum punt, and Terry started its next drive on its own 30, poised to pull within one score.

That’s when senior linebacker JB Faught and junior defensive back Gabe Williams combined to make the play that ended any doubt that it would be the Knights’ night.

“We needed to come up with a stop on defense really badly,” said senior linebacker JB Faught, who started the play that did a lot more than just stopping the Ranger offense.

Faught and the other Knight linebackers identified that Terry was running an option play, so they started shifting with the movement of the quarterback and running back to the short side of the field. As the play unfolded, Faught saw an opportunity to make a play.

“A hole opened up in the offensive line, giving me a clear lane to the quarterback, said Faught, who sprinted through the hole and disrupted the timing of the play, impeding the progress of wildcat quarterback Leandre Davis.

“J.B. Faught forced a quick pitch to the running back [Damon Shavers], and the running back wasn’t ready,” Williams said, “and we were just able to capitalize on their error.”

The errant pitch bounced high off the turf about waist high where Williams grabbed it as if an invisible quarterback was holding the ball there for him run a draw play. Off to the races, Williams dashed 44 yards for the game-breaking touchdown that extended the Knights’ lead to 18 points.

Terry’s errant pitch came up to Gabe Williams like room service at a five-star hotel. Photo by Charlie Holden.

“We came out knowing this was going to be a tough game, but we knew we were ready for a battle and that eventually they wouldn’t want any more,” Julian told The Shield via text message on Monday. “I think the key was we applied pressure on them every snap … on offense, defense and special teams.”

With 10 minutes left in the game, Ian Carson added a 45-yard field goal to push the Knight lead to three touchdowns. With seven extra points, Carson’s right foot accounted for 10 of the team’s 52 points.

Perez finished the offensive onslaught six minutes later with a 17-yard touchdown that made it 52-24.

With history on the line, Perez answered the call and then some. The senior signal caller ran for 182 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 86 on only two completions, both of them 40-plus-yard touchdown passes to Mason Bryant. On the first score, Bryant wrestled with a Terry defender inside the 5-yard line before extending his long left arm and the ball across the plane of the end zone for the score.

Deron Gage continued his trend of becoming the worst-kept secret weapon in the 5A state playoffs. He ran for 96 yards on only seven carries, including a 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter that broke a 14-all tie.

As for Julian, all he did was rush for another 81 yards and a score, bringing his storybook seasons totals to 2,181 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns. Even though Julian has seemingly rushed to the moon and back this season, he said he’s good to go in the team’s Saturday noon showdown with Alice (9-3) in the Alamodome.

Gabe Williams sealed the game’s outcome in the third quarter with a 44-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Photo by Bella Russo.

“I’m doing fine, just some soreness, but we are all facing some type of pain though this long season,” Julian said, “but we don’t mind as long as we’re playing. It’s a blessing for my Class of 2018 teammates to be where we are right now.”

Perez meanwhile surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season with 23 rushing touchdowns and 14 passing touchdowns. Gage meanwhile sits at 953 rushing yards for the season with 10 touchdowns rushing and five receiving. If he can gain 47 yards in the team’s game, he also will reach 1,000 yards rushing for the season.

While outsiders might marvel at the individual stats of the team’s skill players, Perez said that the team’s success is not motivated by individual recognition. Quite the opposite.

“What I would say is that we play for each other,” Perez said. “There are no me people on our team, meaning no one is playing for themselves.  … I’m [playing well] for my teammates and coaches,” Perez told The Shield. “They give me the tools to do the job, and I execute. … [The leaders on this team] have been working for the past four years trying to perfect ”

That’s seemed to be the case with the Knight defense as well. Including Williams’ fumble recovery, the opportunistic Knight defense forced six Ranger turnovers, three on fumbles and three on downs.

Perez celebrates after leading the Knights to a historic 12th win in 12 tries this season. Photo by Bella Russo.

“We were playing to make history that night,” Perez said on Monday.

And with their 12th win, they can check best single season in McCallum history off the to-do list.

Next up is a date with Alice (9-3), the school that ended McCallum’s previous best season in 1966. Those Knights rolled into Alice and played before a hostile crowd. The Coyotes will have no such advantage in the Alamodome on Saturday, but they still will provide a real test for the Knights.

Even though this in uncharted territory, Julian likes the team’s chances.

“If we can play how we did last game as a TEAM, I believe we can keep the train going.”

Mac Nation will find out on Saturday if the Knights can stay on track. For Perez and his teammates, it’s a ride that they never want to end. And to hear him talk about it, this group of players will be a team forever no matter what.

“This team … this season … has been the highlight of my life so far,” Perez said. “I’ve been playing football since I was 6 years old, and I was on a couple of undefeated teams, but we were just kids then. Now, we are young adults in our senior year, having the time of our lives, week by week..”


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