BRYAN - A gutty second half rally came up a little short for Manvel in the Class 5A Division I State Football Quarterfinals Playoffs Friday afternoon.
The Mavericks stormed back from a 14-point halftime deficit to take the lead for the first time in the final period, only to watch Cedar Park pull off its own comeback to outlast Manvel 52-42 at Merrill Green Stadium.
The heartbreaking loss closes a 9-2 banner campaign for Kevin Hall’s squad, who advanced to the state quarterfinals for the second straight year. Finally topping Manvel for the first time in the powerhouses three postseason meetings, the Timberwolves (13-0) advance to play either Corpus Christi programs Flour Buff or Veterans Memorial on Jan. 8 in San Antonio.
“We executed better in the second half and did what the game plan said,” Hall said following the game. “When you do what you’re coached to do, things tend to work out better.
“We didn’t play very well in the first half. We had a few good things happen. Overall, though, we just didn’t play very well. We told them at halftime to just come out and fight and if you do that, we’re going to win the ball game. They came out and did exactly what we told them to do.”
Manvel took the upper hand at 42-38 for the first time on quarterback Gabriel Larry’s 23-yard keeper on the first play of the fourth quarter and appeared to have all the momentum after forcing Cedar Park to go a quick three-and-out on the ensuing series. However, Mavs’ running back De`Monte Seymour was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one at midfield and the Timberwolves drove for the go-ahead touchdown in eight plays with Gunner Abseck collecting a 1-yard flip from Ryder Hernandez with 6:59 left to regain the edge for Cedar Park at 45-38.
Hernandez paced the Timberwolves with 29 completions in 55 attempts for 381 yards and four TD’s.
The Timberwolves then converted a Manvel fumble into Cade Haught’s 3-yard run to increase the margin to 52-42 with 3:13 remaining. The Mavs’ last attempt for another comeback ultimately ended when Larry’s fourth-and-18 desperation heave fell incomplete in the closing minute.
The first half featured a Mavs’ defense stopping the high powered Cedar Park attack three times on downs during the opening 24 minutes, but the Timberwolves offsetting the above factor with the same number of scores on a short field to build the 14-point cushion at the break.
Hernandez fired an 83-yard pass to Jack Hestera on the game’s first play from scrimmage and Kevin Adams’ 5-yard run made it 14-0 with 4:50 left in the first. Ty Harris kept Manvel in the thick of things with 23 and 54-yard scoring rambles, respectively and Larry lofted a 22-yard TD pass to Jalen Walthall to pull Manvel within 28-21 with 1:46 remaining before intermission.
Just when it appeared the Mavs would be entering the dressing room trailing by a only touchdown deficit, though, Blake Burton picked off a Larry pass with only 15 seconds left and Hernandez hooked up with Preston Scott from 30 yards out on the next play for the 35-21 Timberwolves’ cushion.
Behind the rushing duo of Seymour (160 yards on 27 carries, one TD) and Harris (123 yards, 18 carries, two TD’s), who both crossed the century mark on the ground, however, the Mavs began to wear down the famed “black rain” defense in the second half.
Seymour powered in his way from 2 yards out to cap an impressive 10-play, 62-yard march, while Walthall made an 26-yard acrobatic leaping grab of a Larry fling in the end zone to tie it at 35-35 with 3:52 left in the third.
Justin Bohrer’s 39-yard field goal reclaimed the upper hand for Cedar Park at 38-35 on the ensuing series, but the Mavs took advantage a few minutes later of both Brook Honore’s punt bouncing off a Cedar Park player’s leg for a recovery and a defensive pass interference call to grab their first lead on Larry’s keeper with 11:50 remaining in the contest.
“The guys scratched and clawed all season and did everthing we told them to do,” Hall said. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. We got the running game going and our offensive line and backs did a great job. I have no complaints about this football team. This loss hurts, but it doesn’t take away from what this football team has done.”
Routing Foster to win the 10-5A crown, the Mavs posted playoff victories over Beaumont United (63-0), Dripping Springs (38-21) Hightower (31-7).