If history has a way of repeating itself, then the Southlake Carroll fans at McLane Stadium on Saturday night had to feel pretty good as the Dragons captured momentum against Midway in the second half.
Once upon a time, 15 years ago to be precise, and a few miles down the road at Waco ISD Stadium, Carroll trailed Lufkin by 16 points in the third quarter before the Dragons roared back to win the game, 33-30, on their way to the 5A state championship game.
Despite trailing Midway 21-0 midway through the second quarter in Saturday night’s Class 6A Division II regional final, the Dragons were in position for another Waco miracle.
Carroll tied the game at 21 when quarterback Will Bowers found R.J. Mickens for an 18-yard touchdown with 2:14 left in the third quarter and it was anybody’s game.
Quarterback Tanner Mordecai helped Midway’s feelings when he ran up the gut for a 46-yard touchdown to re-establish a touchdown lead on the Panthers’ ensuing possession.
But when the fourth quarter began, Bowers seemed poised to lead Carroll down the field again. The Carroll quarterback finished with 290 passing yards and three touchdowns, constantly fitting balls into small windows, just out of the reach of Midway defensive backs.
That’s when Panthers safety Jack Hicks flipped the script.
The Dragons faced third-and-9 from their own 26 when they had their chance to take advantage of a Midway miscue.
“We were in man coverage and the running back kind of flared out before the snap and I actually went out there to get him and so did our outside linebacker,” Hicks said. “So we were misaligned and nobody was on that seam. I saw it kind of late and broke on it and got the pick.”
While Midway defensive backs got their hands on the football on four different occasions in the first half, the Panthers couldn’t come up with an interception until Hicks did so on the second play of the fourth quarter.
“Looking back at it, it was probably the play of the game, at least in the second half,” Midway coach Jeff Hulme said. “They were starting to get momentum. We snatched it and took the momentum back and were able to score. I think it was the only turnover in the game. When you’ve got two good teams, one turnover can be the difference.”
Hicks returned the interception to the Carroll 20 and it took the Midway offense just three plays to score. Running back James Fullbright’s one-yard touchdown plunge put the Panthers ahead 35-21 with 10:23 to go.
Midway (14-0) didn’t just hang out, they stretched out a 42-28 victory and are moving on in this postseason.
Mordecai said he had a feeling the Panthers secondary was going to make a game-changing play down the stretch.
“I’ve thrown against them for a long time and I knew they would come up big at some point,” Mordecai said. “My buddy Jack Hicks came up real big. The kid was actually pretty open for a second and Jack made a great play. He broke on the ball and he has some of the best instincts I’ve ever seen in a safety. He made a great play and set us up for a touchdown.”