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On Friday, Sweetwater and Wylie met for the 12th â€” and from all indications, the last, at least for the forseeable future â€” time in a district football game.
Once again, it was a game with major district and play-off implications for both of the teams. And as so often been the case, it was the season finale for both the Mustangs and Bulldogs.
However, for a long time, something totally different for the rivalry â€” a Sweetwater win â€” seemed eminently possible.
Kaegan Jeffrey hit Kaleb Hoover in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with 10:23 left, not only tying the game at 28-28 in Mustang Bowl (following Michael Huntâ€™s fourth extra-point kick), but also completing the home teamâ€™s second rally in the contest from a 14-point deficit.
Sweetwater had the mo-mentum, the home crowd was jazzed, and the first playoff berth for the Mus-tangs since 2008 was look-ing like a distinct possi-bility.
But Wylie â€” whose only two losses against Sweet-water since the teams star-ted playing each other on a regular basis in 2000 were in the two years (2002-03) when the teams were in separate districts â€” was quick to respond to the challenge.
The Bulldogs went 85 yards in 11 plays for a 35-28 lead. Then a Sweetwater fumble on the ensuing kickoff gave Wylie a chance to re-establish its 14-point lead â€” this time for good â€” as the Bulldogs ended the Mustangsâ€™ playoff hopes with a 42-28 victory.
The loss left Sweetwater with a 4-6 season record for the fourth straight year, and 2-3 in district play.
Wylie (7-3, 4-1) will share the District 4-3A title with Monahans â€” which after suffering its first 4-3A loss to Sweetwater (28-9) a week ago came back to shut out Big Spring, 31-0, on Friday.
Sweetwater actually tied Snyder for the fourth and final playoff berth. But the Tigers, who beat last-place Greenwood 56-13 in their season finale, will advance due to their 41-14 head-to-head win over the Mustangs back on Oct. 11.
After an early exchange of turnovers in Fridayâ€™s game, Wylie went ahead 7-0 on a 3-yard TD run by Colby Awalt with 5:43 left in the opening quarter.
It stayed that way until the second quarter, when the Bulldogs took advantage of great field position to double their advantage.
Sweetwater failed to get a first down after starting at its 3 following a penalty, and Wylie took over at the Mustang 36 after forcing a punt. It took nine plays, but the Bulldogs made it 14-0 on a 5-yard pass from QB Blake Frampton to tight end Baylen Baker.
Then Sweetwater finally got its offense cranked up. Jacoby Hunt returned the kickoff 41 yards to Sweet-waterâ€™s 42, and three plays later Jeffrey found Bray Amos over the middle for a 58-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 14-7.
But the Mustangs â€” and Amos â€” werenâ€™t through.
Wylie picked up a first down on its next series, but Clay Johnston fumbled and Amos scooped up the ball and returned it the other way from 42 yards out with 3:34 left in the half. Huntâ€™s kick tied the game at 14.
Wylie went back to pounding Sweetwater with its run-ning game, and Johnston scored on a 17-yard run to cap a third scoring drive, giving the Bulldogs a 21-14 lead at intermission.
Sweetwater had the ball to start the second half, and moved from its 25 to Wylieâ€™s 5 with help from a pass interference call on the Bulldogs. But Jeffrey was intercepted by Derek Ince near the goal line.
Dylan Bennett returned the favor for the Mustangs by intercepting a pass at Sweetwaterâ€™s 10. However, the Mustangs were forced to punt into the stiff wind and Wylie once again started at Sweetwaterâ€™s 36.
This time, it took just two plays to score, on a 23-yard Johnston run that extended the lead back to 14, 28-14.
But Sweetwater swung right back, putting together consecutive 75-yard scoring drives to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.
Both ended with Jeffrey touchdown passes, first a 36-yarder to Isaiah McGee with 1:30 left in the third quarter, and finally an 11-yard strike to Hoover in the back left corner of the end zone that knotted the game up at 28 early in the fourth period.
But Wylie would not be denied on its next posses-sion, keeping the drive going with a 10-yard pass completion on third-and-seven but mostly relying on its run game led by Johnston, who ran 14 times for 182 yards, and Frampton, who ran for 65 yards and scored the go-ahead TD with 4:14 left on a 14-yard run. After Sweet-water fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Wylie took over at the Mustang 32 and scored the clincher on Johnstonâ€™s 20-yard run with 2:51 left.
â€śWith four minutes left I felt like we had enough time,â€ť said coach Shane Mobley. â€śBut they squibbed (the kick) and got it back. That kind of took the wind out of our sails. But we kept fighting. Iâ€™m very proud of these young men.
â€śWe learned a lot about this team and what it could do. For three weeks weâ€™ve had a defensive score. But it comes down to who makes mistakes and who doesnâ€™t.â€ť
Jeffrey threw for 268 yards and three TDs, ending his junior year with just under 2,800 yards passing and 34 TDs. Amos, also a junior, finished with 23 TDs â€” 19 receiving, three rushing and one on defense.