Gunning for its fourth straight district championship, the notoriously ground-bound La Vega Pirates unveiled a shiny new toy — the forward pass.
Jamal Williams threw for 244 yards and three touchdowns, and La Vega scored four touchdowns in the final 7:35 of the second quarter to run away from Gatesville for a 49-7 victory Friday night at Pirate Field.
Williams also ran for two touchdowns in his final home game to run his regular-season record as a starter to 34-0.
“It was a great experience, especially seeing (Jamal) playing his last game on this football field and possibly my last football game on this field, so I got kind of emotional,” La Vega coach Willie Williams said.
The Pirates will try and clinch their third straight undefeated regular season when they hit the road to meet Burnet, while Gatesville hopes to avoid a third straight loss with a home game against Liberty Hill. The Hornets have clinched a playoff spot.
Williams connected with Joshua Bryant for a 7-yard score to end the opening march, then hit Jonathan Brown for a 54-yarder and Taequan Tyler for 17 yards in the back of the end zone on the last play of the first half.
Brown led the Pirates with 116 yards on four catches, and Williams and Cameron Henry tied for the team lead in rushing with 43 yards apiece.
“It’s not just the last home game for me, but the last home game I’ll be coached by my father. So that was something special. I had to show out for him,” Jamal Williams said. “I think (us throwing early) surprised them a lot, because we’re a run-first team. If we attack the game like we did tonight, we will e unstoppable against any school.”
While the Pirate offense was showing off its explosiveness with two one-play drives and three that took 26 seconds or less in the first half, the La Vega defense gave Gatesville nowhere to go. The Hornets were stuffed to the tune of 37 total yards, and Jett Truss was 3-for-11 for 18 yards and an interception before halftime.
La Vega’s one-play trips to the end zone came on Brown’s 54-yard reception from Williams after the Pirates got a stop on fourth down, and a Cameron Henry 2-yard run a play after Quintaveon Mason picked off a Truss pass and took it back 37 yards.
“They did an outstanding job in the secondary,” Willie Williams said. “We thought we were going to have to play Jamal on defense. We didn’t have to tonight. The kids really stepped up to the challenge. Everybody says the weakest part of our defense is the secondary, but we proved them wrong tonight.”
It was a strange ending to the first half, as Jamal Williams was intercepted near the goal line as time expired. But after a long discussion from the referees, Gatesville was hit with a holding penalty that allowed the Pirates one untimed down. They took advantage, when Williams scrambled around and threw a dart to Tyler for the TD and a 35-0 halftime lead.
Gatesville decided to get physical put Truss under center on the first march of the third quarter, and it paid off. On a drive in which it ran on 10 of their 11 plays, the Hornets moved 73 yards in 11 plays and took 5:34 off the clock before Truss punched it in from 3 yards out.
That was answered immediately, however, with a Williams 3-yard touchdown run, and he added another on a 9-yarder with 3:46 left in the game.
The Gatesville passing game never found its timing. Truss was 5-for-18 for 38 yards and two interceptions, the latter of which was taken in by Isaiah Terrell at the goal line to stop a promising Hornet march. T.J. Miller was the Hornets’ top offensive performer with 65 yards on 13 carries.
“They have been one of the best senior classes, if not the best, I’ve been able to experience,” Willie Williams said. “Being watching them all down the field (after the game), it took everything in me to try and get off the field. We’re going to miss those guys. They’ve set a foundation for our younger group, and I can’t say enough about them.”