HOUSTON — La Vega didn’t plan to have its best athlete be the holder on kicks in case disaster struck.
But the Pirates are certainly thrilled Parrish Cobb was there.
Jamal Williams scored on a quarterback sneak with 11 seconds left to give the Pirates a two-point lead over Agryle, but the extra point was blocked and the Eagles’ Dylan Sadler picked it up with room to run.
Cobb, who was battling cramps throughout the entire second half, chased him down, however, and the La Vega sideline exploded in celebration after Argyle’s desperation heave fell to the ground to clinch the Pirates’ first-ever football state championship, 33-31, in the 4A Division I title game Friday at NRG Stadium.
“It’s so gratifying (for) the little small city of Bellmead,” said La Vega coach Willie Williams. “We were there in 2008 and were on the other end of this, and it was demoralizing. It took a while to get over this. We said if we got back one more time, we wanted to finish. Because of these guys we were able to finish. I can’t explain the feeling right now.”
It was an emotional win for Williams, a 1977 La Vega graduate who has coached at the school since 1983 with the last 26 of those seasons serving as the head coach, and the Pirates, who had to endure plenty of ups and downs to win the crown.
La Vega (16-0) dominated the first half, especially on defense where they allowed the Eagles only 45 yards on 23 carries. Despite that, the Pirates only led 14-7 at halftime, and their four turnovers in the game helped keep Argyle afloat.
“I think we left some points on the field, but that’s football,” Willie Williams said. “We made some turnovers, but you can’t harp on that last play. We always preach, ‘Hey, let’s get the next play.’ When you put your head down, that’s when they’re going to put some more on you. The kids did what they needed to do to overcome those mistakes.”
The second half turned into an offensive show, and the lead changed hands six times over the final 14 minutes before Jamal Williams finally put it away.
“I knew we had it,” Jamal said. “I knew our defense was just going to take care of the last few seconds, and my point of view just changed. I’m at a loss for words.”
The Eagles ran a throwback all the way across the field on the kickoff to get out to their own 48 with one second left, and Dane Ledford’s desperation pass was well short but bounced around a bit before finally falling to the turf.
“Any time there’s a second on that clock you tend to worry about it because it’s not really over,” Willie Williams said. “But just the fact that those kids fought back and they played together all year long. Defensively we played together, as a group we played together and that’s what made a championship team. You’ve got to be able to overcome adversity and play well together.”
Kemoche Hobbs ran for 136 yards and three touchdowns for the Pirates (16-0) to earn the offensive MVP honors, and Jamal Williams was 11-for-20 for 165 yards and two interceptions passing and also added 36 yards rushing. Both of the interceptions went to Argyle’s Gage Campbell, who was selected as the game’s defensive MVP.
Brandon Benson was the Pirates’ top receiver with eight for 109 yards, and linebacker Anthony Davis paced their defensive effort with 12 tackles, including 1.5 sacks.
Campbell’s second interception came with La Vega backed up in its own end of the field, and he returned it to the Pirate 4. Gage McCook plowed into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run to give Argyle its first lead of the day, 17-14, with 1:31 left in the third quarter, and the Eagles carried that advantage into the final quarter.
“When you’re playing a team like Argyle, you know they’re going to come back at you,” Willie Williams said. “You just have to withstand that. In close games it’s going to come down to execution and turnovers. We had some turnovers that allowed them to get back in the ballgame, but you’ve got to give credit to Argyle. They’re a good ballclub.”
And a wild one it turned out to be.
Hobbs popped a 25-yard touchdown to put La Vega ahead on a drive in which La Vega gambled by going for fourth-and-6 from its own 47. Jamal Williams kept the march alive with a 20-yard scramble to set up Hobbs’ score.
But for the first time all day, Argyle mounted a drive, with a 40-yard Drew Esttrada catch setting up a 4-yard toss from Ledford to J.C. Chalk on a fade in the right side of the end zone to push Argyle back ahead, 24-20.
Cobb muffed a punt earlier in the game that set up Argyle’s first touchdown in the second quarter, a 6-yard Ledford run, but he made up for it on the kickoff after Chalk’s TD when he popped a 64-yard return to the Argyle 35. The Pirates pounded from there with all seven of their plays coming on the ground before John Richards found stretched the ball across the goal line for a touchdown on his only carry of the day, and they led again, 27-24.
“I feel like we did a great job. We had minor mistakes. The offensive line is young with only two seniors starting, so for those guys to step up the whole year and take control, we made some plays for the running backs,” senior offensive lineman Waahid Muhammad said. “That’s not easy to do in a game like this against a great defensive line and front seven. I felt like we did a good job.”
With 4:09 left, the Pirates had a defense that carried them throughout the playoffs on the field, but that’s when they made their biggest mistake of the game. They blew a zone coverage, which allowed McCook to come across the field wide open and take a Ledford pass 68 yards to push Argyle ahead with 2:09 to go.
Ledford threw for 144 yards and two touchdowns, and McCook snagged five passes for 100 yards, and that last connection left the Pirates in a similar situation to the 2008 championship game against Prosper when they allowed a late touchdown to drop a 17-10 decision.
But they still had one chance left.
“That’s all we preach is believe. We’ve got to believe,” Cobb said “If there’s any doubt, you’re not going to overcome anything. Our coaches were telling us if we want it, it’s there for us and we just have to take it. We did everything we could do and came out with the win.”
Sir Morgan Loudd returned a short kickoff 18 yards out to the La Vega 48, so the Pirates were set up with solid field position, and Hobbs picked up 28 yards on four straight carries to the Argyle 25. From there, the Eagles were hit with back-to-back substitution penalties that moved the ball to the 15.
After Hobbs was stuffed for a 2-yard loss on first down, he snuck out of the backfield and caught a Jamal Williams pass in the flat before going out of bounds at the 4. Hobbs tried again and was stacked up at the line of scrimmage, but he kept moving the pile all the way to the 1.
The clock was running at that point, but Argyle called a timeout with 15 seconds left before Jamal Williams pushed his way across the goal line.
Neither team could get much going in the first quarter, and a Campbell interception on a deep ball at the Argyle 6 snuffed out the Pirates’ only chance. They finished their next drive, though, with Hobbs scoring an 8-yarder to put La Vega on the scoreboard first.
Hobbs scored again after Ledford tied the score, this time from 12 yards out, with 3:29 remaining in the second quarter to allow the Pirates to take the lead into halftime. Argyle drew to within 14-10 with a 42-yard field goal from Caleb Holt early in the third to being the second-half fireworks.
“Since day one out there in two-a-days we’ve been talking about going to state,” Benson said. “A lot of people came and asked us what the goal for this season was. Usually you want to win district, but we had already done that, so we were looking forward to winning state. The closer we got, Coach Williams had never gotten him one, so it gave us extra drive and extra push to get it, and we did.”