Angelton, Texas–La Marque linebacker Kevin Butler was asked if La Marque was back to its ways of old.
His answer was an emphatic “yes” as the Cougars (10-3) came back with a vengeance to turn a 15 point deficit into a 15 point lead in route to a 44-28 win over the Manvel Mavericks (11-3) in the UIL Division II Region III Championship Game in Angelton Saturday evening in Texas high school football playoff action. It was their second win over the Mavs this season, the first coming in Week 4 when they defeated them by a nearly identical score of 41-27 at La Marque’s Etheridge Stadium.
“If you’ve noticed anything about La Marque football this year, it’s that the offense feeds off defense and the defense feeds off offense,” said La Marque head coach Darrell Jordan. “We had to get some stops to get the offense back the ball.”
In the early going however, defense was exactly what the Cougars were lacking. After an impressive opening drive by La Marque that ended nearly halfway through the first quarter with a 3 yard TD run by quarterback Mandy Williams, the Mavs took over.
Manvel responded right back with a TD drive of their own in less than three minutes, capped by a 21 yard TD run and 2 point conversion by quarterback Dexter Foreman, who took advantage of an offsides penalty on the extra point attempt to run in a 2-point conversion on the next play to put the Mavs ahead 8-7 with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive on third-and-7 from the 17, Williams dropped back to pass but was blindsided and sacked by a Mav defender at the four yard line, causing him to fumble and allowing Mav DT Dakota Ivey to scoop up the loose ball and run into the end zone and go ahead 15-7 with 2:28 remaining in the first period.
By the time Manvel was done, they were ahead 22-7 with 9:22 left in the first half but instead of causing panic among the La Marque players, the turn of events seemed to have awakened a sleeping giant.
“We just couldn’t lose,” said running back Tim Wright, who finished the day with 102 yards on 25 carries. “[The fact that we are headed to the State Semifinals makes me] speechless, real talk.”
Wright immediately helped get the Cougars going on the next drive’s first play with a 12 yard run that featured the oft-injured back showing a shade of elusiveness and power that hadn’t been seen since earlier in the year. Wright nearly ended the drive with a score. However, the ball was knocked from his grasp at the 2 yard line as he tip-toed the sideline trying to stay in-bounds after a pass was thrown to him from the Manvel 22 and the play resulted in a touchback.
Although there was no positive result from the drive, it seemed to light a spark in the team and the defense immediately took over the line of scrimmage, making the rest of the game a nightmare for the Mavs platoon of QB’s. Manvel’s next five possessions lasted only three plays before either a punt or the end of the first half.
“We didn’t want to go home and put our equipment up for the year, so we just did what we had to do,” said Butler, who had a key sack midway through the second quarter and a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that led to a score.
From that point on, it would not be until the Mavericks final scoring drive late in the fourth that they’d be able to effectively move the ball down the field.
Foreman and Travaughn Colwell, both seniors who saw virtually equal time at QB, were not able to generate the type of production they were used to getting. Foreman finished the day with 3 TD’s and 180 yards of total offense (99 yards passing and 81 rushing), including 48 and 24 yards respectively on the aforementioned drive. Colwell was held to just 58 yards of total offense.
“They’ve got a lot of great athletes over there,” said Manvel head coach Kirk Martin. “They whipped us up front on both sides of the ball.
“My hat’s off to them.”
La Marque then had their recievers step up as Tim Oliver and Jamal Owens made great 35-plus yard catches, Oliver’s catch being one that led to a TD and Owens’ catch was a 39 yard TD catch that cut the deficit to 22-21 at halftime.
In the second half, Maverick penalties and turnovers cost them precious field position and La Marque took advantage, first with a field goal midway through the third quarter and then with another TD pass from Williams to Brian Allen that made it 31-22 with 11:01 remaining in the game.
On the next drive, after a Foreman fumble at mid field, Owens made his second TD grab of the day with 7:04 remaining to complete the Cougars 30 point run at 37-22.
“We were down early but like a team, we came back and fought hard,” said Owens, who finished the day with 89 yards and 6 catches. “Good teams don’t worry–they come together and work hard and we did that.”
Because of questionable strategy by La Marque, the Mavs nearly made a game of it late but Manvel missed a 2-point conversion attempt after Foreman drove the team to a TD and Ja’Core Aldrige finished the scoring with a 24 yard TD with 1:20 remaining to make it 44-28.
In the losing effort, Kaylon Melancon finished with 3 receptions for 59 yards and 1 TD.
Despite the defeat, Martin felt his team had lots to be proud of after finishing the school’s third varsity season, first winning season and first playoff run.
“I’m proud of the kids, they have just fought and fought and fought,” he said. “Those seniors showed us how [to build a winning tradition] this year and those young ones are gonna carry on with the tradition that they built this year.”
“We’ve had a heck of a run–we’ll regroup and have a heck of a run next year [too].”
Williams finished 18/24 for 244 yards with 3 TD’s and 1 interception. The Cougars finished with 492 yards of total offense and 27 first downs for the game.
For the first time since 2006, La Marque is headed to the state semifinals where they are 9-0 all-time. Awaiting them in the Alamodome next Friday at 7:30 p.m. will be a very familiar foe to them historically in Corpus Christi Calallen (13-1), who lost five consecutive 4A State semifinal games to the Cougars in the 1990’s.
Defensive lineman Antonio Wright, who caused major disruption of Manvel’s offense throughout the game, asked for the support of the community next week.
“I wanna see a big 5A school-type crowd out there in San Antonio-a lot of support,” he said.