Unless La Vega and China Spring meet up in the playoffs, Friday night was the final time for Jamal Williams to play against the Cougars. For him to lead his Pirate teammates to a 20-10 victory was already memorable. But on top of that — for now — it’s the final time for him to get the win against La Vega’s biggest rival for his dad who is the head coach. It’s hard to put into words.
“It’s very special, considering this is my senior year,” Jamal said. “It’s my last year playing for him. It’s very special.”
According to his dad, Willie Williams, it was the typical La Vega vs. China Spring matchup. It was hard hitting, high intensity and jam packed full of fans. China Spring coach Mark Bell thought the same thing.
“It was just a great, outstanding high school football game,” Bell said. “It’s what Texas high school football is all about.”
Earlier in the week, Bell praised the La Vega defense. He called it “phenomenal,” saying that it’s been the key to the Pirates’ 6-0 start to the season. But Bell’s China Spring team can play some defense, too.
La Vega received the opening kickoff and ran five plays before John Richards was stuffed two yards behind the line of scrimmage. That placed the Pirates at 4th and 6, and they elected to punt.
The Cougars took advantage of that stop as they marched down the field behind quarterback Cayden Johnson. Johnson went 2 for 3 for 29 yards through the air, including a 21-yard pass to Tyrick James, and ran the ball himself four times for 14 yards.
That set China Spring up at La Vega’s 9-yard line on 4th and 7 where the Cougars made the field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
“I thought our defense played outstanding,” Bell said. “La Vega has a tremendous rushing game. … We had no choice but to put 11 people in the box and try to stop the run.”
China Spring’s defense stepped up the following drive, forcing La Vega to turn it over on downs, despite Jamal Williams’ best effort to take it himself on 4th down. The Cougar offense was working its way down the field once again until K.J. Peoples got lit up by a Pirate defender and fumbled the ball.
La Vega built off of that Cougar error. Facing 3rd and 1, Williams faked the handoff and took off for a 24-yard gain that put the Pirates eight yards out of the end zone. Two plays later, Kemoche Hobbs sprinted around the left side of the line of scrimmage and into the end zone to put La Vega up 7-3.
“We played good as a unit,” Jamal said. “We never got down on ourselves. We always kept the confidence.”
Both defenses continued to make clutch plays throughout the first half as Peoples intercepted Williams in the end zone. With time running out in the second quarter, Donta Stuart picked off Johnson in the end zone. It marked Stuart’s sixth interception of the season.
The Pirates added to their lead midway through the third quarter as Williams connected with Malachi Wright for the 36-yard touchdown.
“That’s my favorite play,” Jamal said. “We haven’t had that much chemistry because we have young guys. I’m glad that we had that.”
It took the Cougars a little more than two minutes to answer. Johnson launched a pass that Steven Russo ran under and carried into the end zone for the 43-yard score.
“First of all, I knew La Vega was good coming in,” Bell said. “They’re a good football team. At the same time, I’m really proud of our kids. I think we have a good football team. I think tonight we solidified that. I think the kids stepped up and played a tremendous football game. For most of the time it was a game in the balance.”
That was until about two minutes left in the game when John Richards broke free for a touchdown to take La Vega’s lead from 14-10 to 20-10.
“The touchdown was big, but we were trying to keep the ball away from China Spring,” Williams said. “They’re so explosive.”
The Pirates finished with 300 rushing yards behind Cameron Henry who finished with 100. Jamal Williams added 90, while Hobbs recorded 50. Those performances were made possible by the play of La Vega’s offensive line.
“They’re phenomenal,” Jamal said. “We have people that talk down on them like they’re undersized and all that. I love those guys.”
Meanwhile, the Pirate defense held China Spring to 10 points, its lowest point total of the season so far. Johnson finished the night with 11 carries for 52 yards to go with 120 passing yards.
“Defensively we’ve been playing well all year long,” Williams said. “I knew offensively they would give us some problems because we know each other so well.”