I had a feeling an important bit of information had eluded me on Friday night as I banged out my game story, racing against deadline following Connally’s 21-20 victory over China Spring at Cougars Stadium.
I didn’t have a chance to talk to Connally coach Shane Anderson or China Spring coach Brian Bell on the field after the game due to a late finish. I had precious few minutes to try to describe the thrilling ball game I had just witnessed, so I hurried to my makeshift office in the passenger seat of my parked car and got to work.
I wrote about how Connally defensive tackle Kary Turner Jr. sacked China Spring quarterback Brayden Faulkner on a fourth down play, ending the Cougars’ last chance to march for a game-winning score.
And then I was about to write that running back Jay’Veon Sunday had given Connally the punch it needed to win on the road.
That’s when something stopped me.
Sure, Sunday scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter as Connally erased a 20-7 deficit in the final 7:12. The reigning Super Centex Offensive Player of the Year finished with 138 rushing yards on 19 carries. So he had a great game.
But he definitely wasn’t the whole story for Connally.
I knew Cadets quarterback Kavian Gaither had an exceptional night. His 33-yard pass to Je’Juan Forward to convert a third-and-30 in the fourth quarter was a huge reason why Connally won the game. By the way, Forward’s catch on the play, for which he went up between two China Spring defenders and came down with the ball, shouldn’t be overlooked either.
Still, I didn’t know just how good a game Gaither had.
That’s because I couldn’t see from my perch in the press box which Connally player made an all-important strip of Faulkner when China Spring was driving early in the fourth quarter. The play stopped the Cougars from taking a three-score lead and probably icing the game. It also started the Cadets on a key drive from their own 16.
When Connally’s Honor Roll stats came in on Saturday morning, guess who made the play?
That’s right, it was Gaither.
The junior quarterback not only passed for 171 yards and a touchdown, rushed for 55 yards and made 11 tackles on defense, by stripping the ball from Faulkner he made the play that enabled all the game-winning plays that followed.
That’s why I couldn’t write that Sunday carried Connally to the win.
When I finally got the chance to talk to Anderson on Saturday, he said he’s been beating the Gaither drum for a while.
“That’s what I keep telling all these recruiters that come through here,” Anderson said. “(Gaither is) one of the best players in Central Texas. He can play anywhere on the field.”
The Connally coach pointed out that Gaither plays four sports — basketball, baseball and track along with football — and is a straight-A student.
That’s really good news for Connally. Since the quarterback touches the ball more than any other player on the team, the Cadets can feel confident that their guy is a savvy player who figures out what needs to be done and makes it happen.
The Connally-China Spring game was just one of a bunch of hard-fought, exciting contests on Friday night. Here’s a look at a few more that came in too late for Saturday’s paper:
Crawford 28, Rice 7
In Crawford, the Pirates took full advantage of a pair of second-quarter fumble recoveries to establish a big lead against Rice.
Crawford quarterback Tate Abel ran six yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and hit running back Trey Lacina for a 26-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter to put the Pirates in front 14-0.
Following Abel’s TD pass to Lacina, the Crawford defense recovered a Rice fumble and moved in for another score. This time Lacina ran two yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Then the Pirates recovered a loose ball on the ensuing kickoff to set up their fourth score of the first half. Abel ran four yards for the touchdown that gave the Pirates a 28-0 edge at halftime.
Rice (2-1) was the only team to score in the second half, but the Bulldogs couldn’t get within three TDs.
Crawford (3-0) held Rice to 172 yards of total offense. The Pirates’ victory sets up a clash of unbeaten 2A Division I teams when Crawford travels to Holland next week.
Whitney 33, Hillsboro 24
In Whitney, the Wildcats scored 12 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to overtake Hillsboro and stay undefeated this season.
Quarterback Devin Wilson rushed for two touchdowns and threw for two more to fuel Whitney (3-0). Backup quarterback Garrett Peacock completed 4 of 5 passes for 116 yards and a TD.
Wilson also had 8 tackles and 3 TFLs and defensive lineman Geronimo Rodriguez posted nine tackles and 2.5 TFLs, including a sack to lead the way as Whitney held down the Eagles (1-2).
Bosqueville 60, Reicher 12
Bosqueville quarterback Luke Bradshaw led a dynamic Bulldogs offense that piled up 538 yards of total offense in racing past Reicher at J.J. Kearns Field.
Bradshaw completed 14 of 23 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns, all to reliable target Jayce Powers.
Meanwhile, Bosqueville (1-2) held the Cougars to 252 total yards.Chris Tompkins and Larson Hoffmeyer each had 11 tackles to pace the Bulldogs defense and Hunter Henexson posted a pair of sacks.
Fairfield 45, Athens 25
In Fairfield, the Eagles outscored the Hornets, 28-7, in the second half to run away with the come-from-behind win.
Justin Abrams rushed for four TDs in the win for Fairfield (3-0), scoring on runs of 29, one, 45 and six yards. Abrams also threw a 36-yard TD pass to Carl Daniels early in the fourth quarter.
Jar’Mychael Hudson capped off the second-half onslaught for Fairfield with a 44-yard fourth-quarter run to paydirt.
Hubbard 49, Malakoff Cross Roads 6
In Hubbard, Jaguars running back Cooper Martin rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Logan Morris passed for 196 and three scores in a rout of the Bobcats.
Morris, R.J. Cormier and Colten Reid also added rushing touchdowns during Hubbard’s prolific offensive performance.
The Jaguars (3-0) totaled 510 yards of offense in keeping their record perfect so far this season.
Richland Springs 50, Aquilla 46
In Aquilla, the Cougars gave Richland Springs everything it wanted, but fell just short in a hard-fought nondistrict battle.
Brandon McIntyre had a big night for Aquilla (0-3) in the loss, running 20 times for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He was complemented by a solid effort from Connor McCurdy, who had 17 totes for 128 yards and three scores.