Facing a 31-28 deficit late in the fourth quarter, A&M Consolidated sophomore quarterback Gage Pahl led the Tigers on a 75-yard drive capped by a 30-yard touchdown pass to Steven Ray for a 35-31 victory over Waco in a District 18-5A opener Friday at Tigerland Stadium.

“I was proud of our guys,” Consol head coach Lee Fedora said. “We had some adversity hit us early, losing our starting quarterback, but [Pahl] went in and yeah he made a few mistakes, which you know there were going to be, but then he led a great drive at the end after we gave up that touchdown.”

Pahl, who came in after starter Caden Fedora injured his ankle on his third pass in the first quarter, completed 5 of 6 passes for 71 yards on the final drive, connecting with five different receivers.

“I was pretty calm [going into the final drive],” Pahl said. “The whole team picked me up and carried me through the game. They told me it was all going to be OK and to just do what we know and do what we’ve been practicing for since two-a-days. It was just another drive. That’s how we looked at it.”

After the Tigers (5-0, 1-0 18-5A) took control with two touchdown drives to start the second half for a 28-17 lead, the Lions (3-2, 0-1 18-5A) roared back on the strength of their option running game.

Senior running back Terrance Hamilton powered in for a 1-yard rushing touchdown with 2:40 left in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 28-24.

The 11-play, 72-yard drive featured eight runs for 31 yards with the key play coming on a 29-yard pass on fourth-and-2 when Waco quarterback Jaylen Harris found Michael Stimpson down at the Consol 1-yard line to set up Hamilton’s score.

After several drives of flipping field position, the Lions took over at the Waco 26 with 7:46 left in the game.

Hamilton quickly got to work, rumbling for 23 yards to midfield while carrying several Tiger defenders after it looked like he was stopped near the 35-yard line. Two more Hamilton runs put the ball at the Consol 31 and Harris took it from there.

The senior broke off runs of 19 and 3 yards to give the Lions a second-and-7 at the 9 and, following a holding penalty, found receiver Quinn Williams in the middle of the field for a 15-yard touchdown pass to give the Lions a 31-28 lead that would prove to be short-lived.

The Lions got the ball back at the Waco 27. Two running plays gave them a third-and-2 and a holding penalty with less than 40 seconds left virtually ended any hope of a comeback and two straight incomplete passes sealed the game with a turnover on downs.

Hamilton rushed for 137 yards on 29 carries and Harris threw for 146 yards on 7-of-16 passing with two touchdowns and an interception and added 43 rushing yards on 12 totes.

Consol travels to Temple next week while Waco hosts Bryan Rudder.

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