Knights corral Mustangs on goal line stand

Knights edge Marble Falls in first district game with game-ending tackle on fourth and goal, reminiscent of final play of Super Bowl XXXI


Grace Nugent

Seniors Johan Holmes, Jake Hissey and Cooper Borman celebrate the victory over Marble Falls. “It was a pretty amazing game,” Hissey said. “We were able to hold the ball for awhile and run down the clock.” Both Hissey and Holmes are excited for the momentum this will bring into next week’s matchup versus Liberty Hill. “Last week if you would’ve asked me about the Liberty Hill game I would be super skeptical about our chances to do anything,” Holmes said. “But after that victory against a similar but worse team and a good week of practice I am excited.”

The varsity football team went into its district opener against the Marble Falls Mustangs looking like a road dog. They entered the game with a 2-2 record and their only losses coming against pedestrian opponents, whereas Marble Falls came into the game 4-1 and blowing out their opponents by 30-plus points.

At first it looked like the pregame indicators would be accurate. 

After most of the first quarter unfolded without any separation between the teams, the Mustangs struck first on their first pass of the game, a 3-yard strike from senior quarterback Jake Becker to junior split end Logan Barnes, who proceeded to kick the extra point for an early 7-0 lead.

Before the touchdown pass, the Knights saw nothing but smash-mouth offense for the Mustangs. The defenses had been the story, but the Knights made the Mustang touchdown drive easy with a poor punt that gave Marble Falls a short field and a facemask penalty that extended the drive.

Down 7-0, the Knights had yet to record a first down.

“We started off kinda slowly in the first half,” senior running back and linebacker Colby Napier said. “We were just trying to run it up the middle.” 

That was the Marble Falls strategy, too.

Marble Falls runs a run-heavy, quick-snap, difficult to defend, old-school slot T offense. Similar to what the Knights will face tonight against Liberty Hill.  

If we’re being honest, we only had about a good 30 snaps of offense because Marble Falls drives were taking so long.

— senior Colby Napier

When Marble Falls missed a field goal early in the second quarter, the Knights’ offense finally found its stride. Capitalizing on the momentum swing, senior quarterback Jaxon Rosales took off from inside his own 20 all the way down to inside the Mustang’s 35-yard line. That set up senior utility man Jake Hissey who ran 11 yards for the score that tied the game at 7.  

“We really worked to break their lines and drive down the field,”  Hissey said. “It ended up working pretty well in some instances.”

While the offense had second-half success, the defense struggled to stop the Mustang’s ground game. As a result, the Mustangs dominated the time of possession, according to senior running back and linebacker Colby Napier.

“If we’re being honest,” Napier said. “We only had about a good 30 snaps of offense because Marble Falls drives were taking so long.” 

While Hissey and Rosales headlined the offense, senior lineman Johan Holmes patrolled the interior defense. He stopped the Mustang drive short when he pounced on a fumble to close out the first half.

“Tino [Rodriguez] blitzed and was able to tackle the quarterback as he was handing off the ball,” Holmes said. “I saw the ball pop out, and I just ran and made the split-second decision to jump on it.”

Holmes recovered the fumble to give the Knights the ball, but he also got in trouble with his coach for the very same play.

“Coach G was like ‘There were two people ready to pick it up and you jumped on it,’” Holmes said with a chuckle. “But I still recovered a fumble.” 

Holmes and the rest of the defensive line had to make adjustments to compensate for the Mustangs’ run-heavy offense.

“We all just kinda tilted,” Holmes said. “We are working on crashing into the inside to make sure there are no gaps for their halfback and running back.” 

To start the third quarter, the Mustangs struck first, then, reminiscent of the Taco Shack game that opened the season, the Mustangs failed to convert the extra point, to make the score 13-7.

The similarities to the Taco Shack Bowl ended there.

On the ensuing kickoff, Hissey fielded the ball on the 1-yard line and weaved through the sea purple jerseys for a 99-yard house call.

“I knew I was going to the house,” Hissey said. “I saw just Nate [Davidson] out in front blocking, and they just had their kicker out there.” 

Jake Hissey’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown reversed the momentum and gave the Knights a one-point lead, 14-13. (Dave Winter)

Marble Falls head coach Brian Herman gave props to Hissey in an interview with The Daily Trib.

“It’s huge,” Herman said. “Some of our best players were in position to make a tackle, but he hit a crease and he got wide.”

Sophomore kicker Dash Levy’s extra point gave the Knights a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

On their first drive of the final quarter, the Knights earned a first and goal. Senior running back Thomas Lonsdale got the ball on three consecutive snaps only to be shy of the end zone. Offensive coordinator Joshua Amy turned to Napier on the fourth and goal at the 2-yard line with 6:29 left in the game.

“My coach before the snap told me the whole game was going to be resting on my shoulders,” Napier said. “So I did whatever it took to score.”

Napier did just that, going airborne and throwing his body across the goal line to put the Knights up 20-13. Amy decided to go for the two-point conversion, hoping to make it impossible for the Knights to tie the game with a touchdown and a two-point conversion. A quick pass play to senior Tino Rodriguez came up short, keeping the lead at 7. 

Senior running back Colby Napier leaps over the goal line on fourth and goal to give the Knights a 20-13 lead over the home Mustangs. “My coach before the snap told me the whole game was going to be resting on my shoulders,” Napier said. “I was thinking ‘why are you telling me this’. But I scored anyway.” Photo by Dave Winter.

After Napier and the offense padded the Knights’ lead, the focus shifted to the defense as it tried to stop the Mustang offense from a potential game-tying score. Refusing to waver from their run-heavy playbook, they trudged down the field, eating up the last six minutes of the game but also getting increasingly close to a game-tying score. 

With the purple and gold wave slowly creeping towards the goal line, the Knight’s defense still felt it would repel the storm.

“We studied their whole playbook,” senior Wyatt Cunningham said. “I felt really confident.”

As the Mustangs advanced inside the Knight 5-yard line during a prolonged drive, it appeared Cunningham’s confidence was misplaced.

“I was actually expecting an outside run. They ended up running outside and I managed to get the tackle.”

— senior defensive back Wyatt Cunningham

Faced with a third and goal situation, senior lineman Cooper Borman was drawn offsides, moving the ball half the distance to the goal.

This set up a fourth and goal with only six seconds until the final whistle. One final play for all the marbles.

Becker called for the snap, and to no one’s surprise, it was a designed run play.

The play was a pitch to the wide left, and it looked a good call as the play unfolded. The Knight defense crashed the inside, expecting a run up the gut.

Except for Cunningham who stayed at his position so he was in a position to blow up the play. With Cunningham standing his ground, the game suddenly hinged on an Oklahoma drill inside the Knight 5-yard line. With the help of Guenther, Cunningham stopped the running back in his tracks, sealing the victory as time expired.

“I was actually expecting an outside run,” Cunningham said. “They ended up running outside, and I managed to get the tackle.”

It was reminiscent of “the tackle” that shook Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta. Tennessee Titans receiver Kevin Dyson caught the ball on the final play of the game, streaking towards the end zone with the Titans down by a touchdown. St. Louis Rams linebacker Mike Jones wrapped Dyson up by the legs just before the goal line as time expired, winning the Rams the game. 

In that moment, Cunningham was Jones, making the game-sealing tackle in the Georgia Dome.

As if it really was the Super Bowl, the McCallum sideline erupted with joy as excitement painted the faces of Knight players and coaches alike. 

Senior Jake Hissey runs to the pile of seniors Wyatt Cunningham and Ez Guenther after making the game saving tackle. “I made sure to stay outside and do my job,” Cunningham said. “My teammates just helped me out and did the rest.” (Dave Winter)

“The sideline after it was, well, crazy,” Cunningham said. “I was just in awe of what had happened.”

The victory made the Knights 1-0 in district play. They face the Liberty Hill Panthers (2-0) tonight at House Park.

“Their defense is going to be the best defense we face all year, probably,” Holmes said. “Their offense is not the same as it was last year, and our defense is very good at fitting up slot T teams, so it will be a good battle for sure. ”

The Knights hope to cap off Pink Week with another mark in the win column, it’s a can’t miss game 7 p.m. tonight at House Park.