Houston–Who says Houston ISD teams can’t battle?
While the rest of 24-4A’s playoff teams dominated the teams from HISD as if they were teams from a lower classification in Friday night’s second round action, the La Marque Cougars were locked in a dogfight with 21-4A champion Yates.
The Cougars were tied with the Lions at halftime and only led 28-23 late in the second half, with star running back Tim Wright in agony both physically and mentally on the sidelines since he was unable to help his team.
La Marque was able to stand it’s ground twice on defense in the late stages and came away with a 31-23 win in a fiercely contested UIL 4A Division II high school football playoff game at Delmar Stadium in Houston.
“It was ugly,” La Marque head coach Darrell Jordan chanted three times. “But the scoreboard’s even prettier.”
The Cougars will advance to play Dayton next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Tully Stadium in the third round (regional semifinals) in Houston but not before an amazing battle with the former powerhouse in Houston’s inner city.
La Marque, after a sluggish first half performance, came out ready to play in the second half, scoring on a 21 yard fumble recovery by Ken Butler on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. An 18 yard touchdown pass by Wright with 7:33 remaining in the third quarter made the score 21-7 and it appeared the rout was on.
But Wright’s next drive would be his last of the game as he laid on the turf injured after a 2 yard run because he severely aggravated his right ankle. Wright was in such pain that he had to be carried off the field and there was lots of speculation as to whether or not his season was finished.
“I’m worried about his health more than anything,” Jordan said. “Those other kids were ready to go, as you saw with Ja’Core Aldridge.”
And Aldridge did his best Wright impression, rushing for 79 yards on 11 carries, picking up the slack as the team’s main star was taken out of the game.
“In practice, the coaches told me to be prepared and be ready to be Tim’s backup,” said Aldridge. “That’s what I did tonight and I’m proud I came through for my team.”
But the Lions refused to go away.
Trailing by 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Lions actually benefited from a lobbed ball being intercepted by Hill at the 1 yard line on fourth down as they sacked La Marque QB Mandy Williams for a safety the next play. Yates QB Rashad Jackson then connected with Tony McDaniel to make it 28-23 with 6:56 remaining.
After getting ball again following a Cougar turnover Yates was on the move again but that’s when another of La Marque’s unsung heroes stepped up. Coming through to end the drive was Kendall Hill. Hill is normally a receiver but has started as a safety the last two weeks and he came up with two interceptions in the fourth quarter, the second of which was at the La Marque 21 yard line with 4:54 remaining that stopped a potential game winning drive by the Lions.
“You hate to lose a game like that because our kids fought but we made too many mistakes, bottom line,” said Yates head coach Ronald Miller. “We gave 14 points away and you don’t want to do that against a good team.”
Down 31-23, Yates made their final mistake when they fumbled it away while driving in Cougar territory in the final minute and the game ended after a La Marque kneel down.
In the losing effort, Jackson finished with 156 yards on 12-27 passing, throwing 1 touchdown pass and interception a piece. Ricky Jackson added 2 touchdown runs while Tevon Robins had 9 receptions for 115 yards.
For La Marque, Williams had a huge game with 255 yards passing, going 19-32 with 3 TD passes and 1 interception. Wright finished with 82 yards on 19 carries along with a receiving TD while Jamal Owens finished with 5 receptions for 91 yards.
The Cougars had easily the stiffest challenge from an HISD team among 24-4A teams, as district champion Friendswood won a deceptively sloppy 50-6 game over Wheatley, Manvel defeated Booker T. Washington 58-0, while Pearland Dawson defeated Worthing 62-8.