Mustangs rally to nip Lions

Ron Howell
Sports Editor

BRECKENRIDGE — The Sweetwater football team is an area champion for the fourth straight season.
And with Friday’s 32-28 win over Vernon, the Mustangs have won at least 10 games for the fourth consecutive year.
But it took every ounce of will, grit and determination to accomplish that feat and advance to play Graham at 7 p.m. this Friday at Abilene Christian University.
Sweetwater (10-2) trailed at the end of each of the first three quarters and never led until Daniel Avila scored on a 20-yard run with 4:26 left.
The final outcome wasn’t secured until a Vernon pass from Sweetwater’s 26 was broken up in the end zone with :00 on the clock.
It was a wild ride of highs and lows on both sides, starting when the Mustangs got to Vernon’s 8-yard line only to turn it over on downs on the game’s very first possession.
The Lions (5-7), who made the second round of the playoffs as just a fourth-place team in District 3-4A, D-II, turned the tables on Sweetwater with a 92-yard scoring drive and two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Sweetwater responded with Avila’s first of three scoring runs, an 8-yarder, but trailed 8-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Vernon’s next drive lasted 22 plays and nearly 11 minutes. It culminated deep in Period 2 with a 14-yard run by Chad Thomas, giving the Lions a 14-7 advantage.
Sweetwater’s next drive lasted 1:14, but with the same outcome. The Mustangs scored on a 9-yard run by quarterback Chris Thompson and tied Vernon at 14 with 3:35 left on Ky Hoover’s extra point.
Sweetwater forced the Lions to punt following a three-and-out series and took over at its 8-yard line, but disaster struck when a fourth-and-one gamble from Sweetwater’s 17 failed and Vernon scored with :34 left until halftime to regain the lead, 20-14.
Sweetwater then fumbled it away at its 24-yard line early in the third period and Vernon, on fourth-and-goal from the 11, scored again to put the Mustangs in their deepest hole of the game.
Thompson hooked up with Kobe Clark for a TD to close the gap from 26-14 to 26-20, but Vernon was able to steal that thunder and momentum by returning the blocked extra point for two points and a 28-20 lead over the Mustangs.
As the third period ended, Vernon was driving again to Sweetwater’s 9. However, a fourth-down pass failed and the Lions’ lead stayed at 8.
Sweetwater took advantage. Thompson ripped off a 59-yard run, setting up Avila’s 9-yard run to cut the lead to two with 10:20 left in the game. Then the Mustang defense went back to work, forcing the Lions to punt with 6:19 to play.
Thompson’s 38-yard keeper got it to Vernon’s 26 and Avila’s third TD gave Sweetwater its first and only lead of the game, 32-28.
Clark intercepted Vernon with 1:24 left, but it was too early to celebrate. Vernon got it back at Sweetwater’s 43 with :16 left. A 22-yard pass moved it to the 21, but the last two passes failed.