In a wild District 4-3A opener at Mustang Bowl that featured a pair of 2-3 teams with first-year head coaches, the winner of Friday’s Sweetwater vs. Snyder showdown wasn’t decided until the final play.
Even though Sweetwater never trailed, the Mustangs couldn’t relax until a Snyder fumble on that very last play sealed a 34-27 triumph.
And while the first feeling might have been one of relief, it was immediately followed by joy in the Bowl as Sweetwater won its 4-3A opener against a fierce rival — and one with three con-secutive lopsided victories over the Mustangs.
The momentum of the game see-sawed back and forth all night.
Snyder dominated time of possession in the first quarter, but Sweetwater’s defense twice held after the Tigers had gotten inside the Mustangs’ 20.
Sweetwater then struck for a pair of touchdowns, the first an 88-yard pass play from quarterback Kae-gan Jeffrey to wide receiver Willie Norman, to open up a 14-0 advantage only to see Snyder wipe it out by scoring two touchdowns in just 18 seconds, both times after Sweetwater turnovers.
It was still 14-14 at half-time after Sweetwater was denied a touchdown on the last play of the second quar-ter, when officials ruled that Norman was out of the end zone when he caught a pass from Jeffrey.
But Sweetwater was able to once again enjoy a two-score edge after two more Jeffrey TD passes, the first a 47-yarder to Ryan Line-baugh and the second a 34-yarder to Isaiah McGee that made it 27-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter. But that lead, once again, didn’t hold up long as Snyder scored on its next two possessions to tie the game at 27-27. The tying score came after Sweetwater lost its third fumble of the game, allowing Snyder to start from the Mustangs’ 38 and eventually score on a 20-yard run by running back D’Vincent Allison, who carried the ball 34 times for 169 yards on a very busy night and scored twice.
With a chance to take their first lead after Allison’s score, the Tigers missed the extra point kick as it hit the left crossbar and came back to leave the game tied with 6:57 to play.
Sweetwater got help on its next drive when Snyder was penalized for a personal foul, moving Sweetwater to midfield and eventually leading to Linebaugh’s 11-yard touchdown run with 3:04 remaining to regain the lead at 34-27.
Snyder took the kickoff back to its 23, then kept its final drive going when Skillet Rinehart — playing at quarterback for injured Brandon Davis — completed a 13-yard pass to Felix Martinez on fourth-and-10 from Snyder’s 35.
First-down passes to both Martinez and Zach Harris and Allison’s first-down run moved the Tigers to Sweetwater’s 11, and Rinehart then ran nine yards to put it at the 2. However, Rinehart was injured on the play and left the game, with Johnathan Garcia taking over behind center for a third-and-goal play and Snyder out of timeouts.
But the ensuing snap was fumbled by Garcia, produ-cing a scramble with the ball eventually being recovered by Sweetwater’s Marquees Jenkins as time expired, allowing Mustang players to celebrate their first victory over Snyder since 2008.
It was also the first time Sweetwater’s Shane Mobley had beaten the Tigers as a head coach, though as an assistant to Kent Jackson he was part of Sweetwater wins over Snyder during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.
Snyder, though, had out-scored Sweetwater 150-26 in winning the last three district meetings.
Friday was a career night for Jeffrey, who set personal highs by throwing for 284 yards and four touchdowns in just his sixth start at quarterback. He completed 12 of 18 passes with one interception, and also had 28 yards rushing.
Snyder out-rushed Swee-twater by a 2-1 (233-110) margin in the game, but the Tigers threw for only 145 yards and Rinehart was in-tercepted by Norman late in the first quarter, leading to a touchdown that gave Sweetwater a 14-0 lead.
Facing first-and-15 from the 29, Jeffrey threw to Kaleb Hoover who made a sensational catch after tak-ing the ball away from his defender in the back of the end zone. Hoover finished as Sweetwater’s top receiver with five catches for 68 yards, although in terms of yardage Norman led the way with 94 yards on his two receptions.