ABILENE — Sweetwater knew coming into Friday’s season finale at Wylie that its playoff hopes rested on a near-flawless effort on both sides of the ball, plus some outside help. But it was second-ranked Wylie that had that kind of game instead as the unbeaten Bulldogs (10-0 overall, 5-0 in District 4-3A) struck early and often for a 55-20 victory which ended the Mustangs’ year.
Sweetwater (4-6, 2-3) had four turnovers, one of them an early interception that Wylie defender Patrick Walker returned to the end zone for a 14-0 lead in the first quarter that forced Sweetwater into a catch-up mode the rest of the way.
While a blocked punt led to Sweetwater’s Luis Gaxiola picking up the loose ball and scoring from 6 yards out to narrow the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-6, the Mustangs could get no closer. As a result, Sweetwater finished fourth in the district standings while Greenwood (3-2) claimed the No. 3 and final playoff berth with a 53-39 win Friday over Snyder.
““We knew we had an opportunity, but it was a big task for us tonight and some things happened that made it tough to overcome,” said head coach Shane Mobley. “But I’m proud of our kids. We did some good things but we couldn’t stop them. They have such a big offensive line and you’ve got to have that to get to the next level. They should make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Sweetwater moved the ball reasonably well during the game, but had problems holding on to it. Its first offensive score — a 13-yard catch by Willie Norman — came after a low snap that quarterback Kaegan Jeffrey retrieved before slinging a wobbly floater that Norman caught over his defender to cut Wylie’s lead to 28-13 in the second quarter. Jeffrey took the honors himself with a 1-yard run for Sweetwater’s other score that cut Wylie’s advantage to 42-20 in the third period.
But for each Sweetwater score there was a Wylie response, and then some as the Bulldogs racked up 49 points in the first three periods and finished with 443 yards of offense. Almost exactly half of it — 222 yards — came from running back Garrett Martin, who scored three of Wylie’s TDs on runs of 25, 4 and 48 yards.
Sweetwater had an even balance offensively as the Mustangs ran for 155 yards against Wylie while getting 145 through the air.
Unfortunately, Sweetwater twice fumbled it away after big gains that put the team in Wylie territory, and an interception ended another drive after the Mus-tangs reached the Wylie 24-yard line. Sweetwater made up for that miscue by getting a touchdown off the blocked punt a few minutes later that cut Wylie’s advantage to 14-6 at the end of the first quarter. But Sweetwater soon trailed by a two-score margin again as Wylie needed just four plays to increase its lead to 15, 21-6, on Martin’s first touchdown run.
The Bulldogs made it 28-6 after blocking a Sweet-water punt and taking over at the Mustangs’ 32. It took just six plays to find the end zone, and Wylie was in firm control from then on. The hosts enjoyed a 35-13 lead at intermission.
Sweetwater’s first scoring drive began from Wylie’s 39 after a short punt. Sweetwater took six plays to cut the lead to 28-13 on Jeffrey’s pass to Norman with 2:44 left in the half.
But that still left Wylie enough time to score again and hike its advantage to 35-13 on a 2-yard run by Tye Calhoun.
Wylie added another TD for a 42-13 lead early in the third quarter, with Martin scoring on a 48-yard run on the third play from scrimmage. Sweetwater then put together its best drive of the night, moving 69 yards in 10 plays with Jeffrey’s 1-yard run capping the drive to make it 42-20.
But Wylie was relentless and came back with two more scores, first on a 1-yard run by quarterback Taylor Grant and finally on a 23-yard run by Hayden Lewis with 9:19 left in the contest. The 55 points were the most Sweetwater has allowed this year, but then Wylie is by far the best team the Mustangs have faced.
“They’re a good team and they’re state ranked,” Mobley admitted. “But out kids came out and got after it as much as we could.”
With the loss, Sweetwater just missed reaching .500 as the Mustangs went 4-6 for the third straight season.
Two of the losses were by a total of eight points, however, and several of the team’s most productive offensive performers will be back for another season including Jeffrey, who threw for over 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns this year as a sophomore. Against Wylie, he also had a big night running the ball with a team-high 107 yards.
But 18 seniors suited up for the final time Friday and they will be missed, including Norman (3 catches for 21 yards) and Ryan Linebaugh (11 rushes, 45 yards), who also started on the defensive side of the ball. Also playing his final game was defensive lineman and placekicker Tadeo Canon-Masjoan, who moved to Sweetwater from Argentina right before the start of the 2011 season.