Running free

Zackary Zavala, left, runs ahead of Garrett Loudermilk, middle, for a block. Ryan Wells, right, pins his man on the

ground.

The Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) Pirate football team lost to the Wimberley Texans 42-41 in a back and forth affair that ended in a decision to go for two, which resulted in a heartbreaking ending for the Pirates, Friday, Nov. 29 in Beeville.

RFHS will end its season with a 9-4 overall record after achieving a 5-0 district record, winning its second straight district championship.

The Pirates went a full 12 rounds in a back and forth battle with the Texans as both teams landed proverbial haymaker after haymaker on both sides of the ball as it went down to the final 15 seconds of the game to decide the outcome.

“It was an excellent football game, both teams played at a high level and they both made incredible plays,” said RFHS Head Football Coach Jay Seibert. “It was high school playoff football at its best.”

RFHS began the game with possession but could not finish after a Wimberley linebacker punched the ball out of the grasp of Garrett Loudermilk and recovered it.

The Texans capitalized on the turnover and took it down the field for a score on a pass touchdown (TD) for a 7-0 lead.

In RFHS’ next possession, a couple big runs by Joe Franks moved RFHS into Texans territory. RFHS came up short on third down and elected to kick a field goal. Axel Espino nailed the kick, however, a facemask by Wimberley gave RFHS a second chance to continue the drive for a TD. Ryan Wells finished on a short TD run to even the score in the top of the second quarter.

The Texans took the field after and marched downfield using short passes and screens that steadily moved them into Pirate territory. The Texans completed their drive on another short pass TD to take a 14-7 lead.

In RFHS’ next possession, Wells hit the hole for a 25-yard gain on the first play to set the Pirates up in Texan territory. However, RFHS could not finish after a pass by Cass Flores fell incomplete on fourth down.

The Pirates went back on defense and gave a gut check to Wimberley on a huge takeaway by Clay Williams. The Texans quarterback completed a pass for what looked to be a short gain to a wide-out. However, Williams, on the tackle, poked the ball out and returned it back for a 40-yard fumble return TD to even the score at 14-14.

Soon after, the Texans took a shot downfield on the second play of the next drive. Wimberley threw deep over the top with Williams in coverage and completed a 65-yard pass TD to take another lead at 21-14.

With only 30 seconds left before the half, the Pirates went on a long drive and finished with a score. Franks came up with big run after big run to put the Pirates in Texan territory. At the one-yard line, Flores took it up the middle for a sneak to tie it once more before the half at 21-21.

RFHS opened the second half on defense but quickly took it away from the Texans. On a carry inside, Chris Darnold met the Texans back in the middle to strip the ball away and recover it for a short gain. However, the RFHS offense was unable to turn it into points after failing to convert a fourth down.

Wimberley handed it off to their back once more and this time struck gold with a big run up the middle to set up inside the redzone. The Texans finished on a short pass TD near the right hash to make it 28-21.

The RFHS offense got it back and put up another quick score. After Loudermilk picked up a conversion on 4th and six, Flores went deep to Williams to put RFHS in the redzone. Franks then scored from 13 yards out to make it 28-28.

The RFHS defense came up big to force a punt in Wimberley’s next drive for a chance to take the lead going into the fourth quarter. RFHS got its answer with 10:26 left in the fourth with a big 53-yard TD run by Franks to give RFHS its first lead of the game at 35-28.

The Texans looked to answer back in utilizing a short passing game to move downfield on a long drive. However, on a short screen pass to the left side, Ty Klender read the screen and jumped the throw for an interception with 9:45 remaining.

Unfortunately, the Pirates were unable to turn another turnover into points and could not convert on a fourth down carry after being backed up by penalties.

With four minutes remaining, Wimberley drove into Pirate territory and were held to fourth down after a pass deflection by George Marable in the endzone. The Texans tried for the score on fourth and goal but the Pirate defense held true after an overthrow gave RFHS the ball back.

Wimberley’s defense continued to be stingy against the Pirate running game and forced a punt from the Pirates’ side of the field.

Wimberley’s offense found life with a couple penalties in its next drive against the Pirate defense. The Texans drove inside the redzone and finished on a short run to tie it at 35 with 1:44 remaining.

The Pirates looked to get a drive going back on offense but Wimberley stumped RFHS’ rushing attack and forced a third down on RFHS’ side of the field. With 47 seconds left, RFHS went play-action on third down but was intercepted. Flores’ throw was jumped by a Texans’ safety and ran it back for a TD to pin RFHS at a 42-35 deficit.

Looking for a big play, RFHS awaited the kickoff from Wimberley and found it on the return. Klender fielded a short kick and reversed field for a long return to set up RFHS within striking distance on Wimberley’s side of the field.

RFHS pulled closer with a completion by Flores to Kaden Harder to get inside the redzone. Quickly setting up at the line, RFHS ran an outside run play and Franks took it into the endzone to put the score at 42-41.

After a Pirate timeout to discuss the situation, RFHS went for the win on a two-point conversion.

“In the last couple minutes of the game a bunch of crazy stuff happened,” said Seibert. “We had a chance to either kick an extra point and go to overtime or try to win it. At that point, I felt our best chance to win the game was to go get the two points right then and … it didn’t work out.”

Sadly, the Pirates could not convert it. Going for a run play inside, Loudermilk took the handoff and was met by a gang of Texans at the one. Loudermilk could not push any further, and fell a yard short.

With 15 seconds remaining and zero timeouts, the Pirates last chance was an onside kick, but it was fielded cleanly by Wimberley, ending the Pirates chances at a comeback with a final of 42-41.

Flores was 3-8 passing for 51 yards, one interception, and one rushing TD.

Franks led RFHS in rushing with 22 carries for 181 yards and three TD’s.

Loudermilk rushed 25 times for 91 yards.

Wells carried 10 times for 59 yards and one TD.

Williams caught one ball for 33 yards.

The season comes to a disappointing end for the Pirates as the first team since 1993 to win back-to-back district championships.

“That was a big deal,” said Seibert. “Anytime you win nine football games, you win a lot more than most everyone else did. We made a lot of memories and it was definitely a special team. I’d love to be playing again this week; we were close.”

The Pirates will be losing a deep senior class that had players starting and contributing at every level of the offense and defense.

“Its two years in a row we’ve had really good senior classes and this one was a bit different, with a lot of move-ins in the last 3-4 years,” said Seibert. “They’re a physical, tough good group. They weren’t concerned with their stats or what they did, they were more concerned about what the team did.”

Seibert hopes that the tradition of having strong senior classes continues as the program moves into the future with numerous talented underclassmen ready to fill the roles that are left behind by the departing seniors.

“We have some talented freshman and JV players that are going to have to step up and fill the role,” said Seibert. “We had several juniors and four sophomores starting this year. Those guys have a year of experience now and they’ll have to take a bit of a leadership role.”

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