AUSTIN — There haven’t been many moments that have caused frustration for La Vega this year, but it was plenty evident Friday night.
With the Pirates feeling the heat and momentum creeping over to Canyon Lake’s side, they needed to find somebody who would keep his cool.
Enter Kemoche Hobbs.
The senior running back picked up a key third-down conversion with a 7-yard run, then picked up chunks of 39 and 23 yards, the last of which ended in the end zone and was the capper on a 33-14 victory at Reeves Stadium.
“That touchdown was huge,” La Vega coach Willie Williams said. “We had some penalties, and they were mimicking our calls a little bit. But you have to be able to overcome that kind of stuff, and we did a good job of that.”
The Pirates advance to the Class 4A Division I Region IV final for the third straight year. La Vega will meet Liberty Hill for the fourth time in three seasons at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Leo Buckley Stadium in Killeen. The Pirates are 3-0 against the Panthers in those recent meetings, including a 33-18 win in Liberty Hill to open district play.
Hobbs picked up 86 yards and two scores on the night, and fellow senior Jamal Williams ran and threw for a touchdown. He finished with 93 yards on the ground and 86 through the air.
The Pirates (13-0) had a 27-7 lead and the ball in the third quarter, but that’s when things began to go awry.
Jonathan Brown fell down on a stop pattern, and Williams’ pass was intercepted by Jacob Neel. The Hawks (10-3) took advantage with a 19-yard burst from Tanner Faris to get them back into the game, and they got a defensive stop on the next La Vega possession.
“They were playing some games in the secondary, and when Jamal throws the interception, it was because our receiver falls down,” Willie Williams said. “If that didn’t happen, that’s a completion, but those things happen. We played hard offensively in the second half, but we didn’t play very well.”
At that point, everything was going Canyon Lake’s way, and La Vega mistakes were starting to creep in.
But the Pirates took advantage of a massive miscue from Canyon Lake. J.T. Greene caught a short pass from Ben Fulton and tried to flip it behind him to a teammate on the hook-and-lateral. But the only player there was La Vega defensive tackle Chris Judie.
The Hawks again made a stop defensively and put together a long march, this time getting to the La Vega 16 with a fourth down at the 6:27 mark of the fourth quarter. Fulton appeared to have room to get the first down, but a pair of La Vega defenders closed the hole and stopped him short.
That’s when Hobbs took over and finished off the Hawks, helping the Pirates overcome a pair of false start penalties on the march.
La Vega wasted little time going to the lead, with Taequan Tyler taking a quick pass, breaking a tackle and sprinting 44 yards to paydirt for a 6-0 La Vega lead.
But the Canyon Lake slot-T fired to perfection on the next possession. In a march that took 9:15 off the clock, the Hawks ran 21 plays, including three fourth-down conversions, to get into the end zone on a 1-yard plunge from Tristan Chacon to push Canyon Lake in front, 7-6.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Donta Stuart raced 56 yards with the ensuing kickoff to set up a 6-yard Cameron Henry touchdown, and Hobbs added his first touchdown of the night on La Vega’s next march to make it 20-7 at halftime.
“If you get ahead of them and make them play catchup, that puts their backs against the wall,” Willie Williams said. “They have to throw the ball, and that’s not what they want to do.”
The Pirates were in complete control after the opening march of the second half. They started out backed up, but a 25-yard pass from Williams to Brown was followed with a 70-yard Williams run to the end zone on a keeper before La Vega’s mistakes allowed the Hawks to remain in the game.
Faris ran for 100 yards on 14 carries to lead Canyon Lake’s rushing attack.