Jace Terry doesn’t get enough credit.
As he goes, the Mart Panthers go.
Wednesday night inside AT&T Stadium, Terry balled. And Mart won its sixth state title.
The Panthers’ senior quarterback finished with 17 carries for 94 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Of course, this includes his 64-yard touchdown where he juked out a defender who didn’t even move in response. It also helped that Logan Wehmeyer came up with a huge block on the only Bobcat likely to take down Terry.
Photos by Rod Aydelotte
Terry’s rush game is no surprise to anyone who has watched him all season. He finished the year just shy of 1,000 yards on the ground with 17 scores on 110 carries.
Terry has seemed unstoppable on the ground the last three weeks. He was Mart’s leading rusher against Refugio and Stratford, while he was second behind Tyrek Horne against Crawford.
On that cold Thursday night at Waco ISD Stadium — as the Panthers were out to prove that they were more than a quick, spread offense in their state quarterfinal contest against Crawford — Terry had seven carries for 144 yards and three scores.
A week later in Snyder, in Mart’s state semifinal game against Stratford, it was a first down every time Terry carried the football as he rushed 10 times for 101 yards and three more touchdowns.
Against the Elks, Mart jumped out to a 19-0 lead before Stratford started to come back in the fourth quarter. After the Elks cut the Panther lead to six with nine minutes left in the game, it was none other than Terry who delivered the dagger.
Merely two minutes after the Elk touchdown, Terry kept it for a 35-yard rushing touchdown which put the Panthers up by 14, after Terry completed a pass to Jalon Kirven for the two-point conversion.
In the state championship on Wednesday against Refugio, it was Terry again. Eight times in the contest when Mart faced either third or fourth down, it was Terry who delivered to keep the drive alive.
ARLINGTON — It’s been a special balance all year long for Mart.
In the Panthers’ first full drive of the second quarter, Terry was big time on four of those kinds of plays. The first came on 3rd-and-12 on the Mart 12-yard line when Terry completed a 17-yard pass to Anthony Sauceda for the first down. Then, on 3rd-and-5 from the mart 34, Terry completed a 13-yard pass to Jalon Kirven for a fresh set of downs. Three plays later, on 3rd-and-14 from the mart 43-yard line, Terry hit Tyrek Horne for a 29-yard completion.
While each of those clutch plays kept the drive alive, the biggest play of the drive, perhaps even the game, came on 4th-and-goal from the Stratford 2-yard line. The Panthers were lined up to kick the field goal, but Terry took the snap, rolled to his right and hit a wide open Shatydrick Bailey in the end zone for the touchdown to tie the game at 14.
Another gutsy play by Terry came at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Mart faced 4th-and-1 on its own 37-yard line. When the ball was snapped, the Panthers thought a flag was thrown for a penalty against Refugio. Terry looked downfield and connected with Jalon Kirven for a 34-yard completion. Turns out, there was no penalty. One play later, it was the Terry-Kirven duo again, but this time for a 29-yard touchdown.
Notice that each of those key plays by Terry were passing plays. In those situations, that has to show a lot of trust from head coach Kevin Hoffman in his quarterback’s ability to get the football where it needs to be.
We already knew how much trust Hoffman had in Terry. Back in August, Hoffman told me that Terry does in fact call some of the plays for the Panther offense. Sometimes the coaches make the calls. With the way Mart’s offense is set up, the Panthers have a few options off a base play. With all the read pass option plays in the playbook, what happens after the ball is snapped comes from what Terry sees from the backfield.
But on Wednesday, Terry showcased another dimension. Hoffman said after the game that he knew that in order for Mart to dethrone the defending state champion Refugio Bobcats, the Panthers had to do some damage through the air.
Terry completed 11 of 17 passes for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Jalon Kirven was his main target as the senior receiver finished with seven catches with 199 yards and a score.
Terry’s efficiency through the air on Wednesday pushed him past the 2,000-yard mark on the season. He finished the seasons with 2,013 yards as he completed 111 of 186 pass attempts for 31 touchdowns and only four interceptions.
That’s just about double his passing production from his junior season when he went 64-for-130 through the air for 1,012 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2016.
After Wednesday’s state title game was over and Terry had gone through the handshake line with Refugio, Mart offensive coordinator Steve Burrow ran over to his quarterback, hugged him and lifted him up in the air as he told him, “Good job.”
It was a quick celebration between the two, away from the Mart madness at midfield. But in that moment between those two, all the hard work of this season and before had finally come to fruition as what was once a goal decided on by a team was now forever engrained in school history.
As the Panther team lifted the state championship trophy over their heads, we can all look back at the special group this was. It was speed. Everywhere. On offense and defense.
It was the balance between the run and the pass, the ability to score and the ability to shut others out.
But amongst all of this was Terry, orchestrating the show as the offensive fireworks lit up the night.