Holding the Line: Sachse fights off South Garland comeback attempt to pick up big 11-5A win
Sachse defeated South Garland last season for the first time and it resulted in the program's inaugural trip to the playoffs.
There was no postseason berth on the line on Thursday, but another win over the Colonels would help the Mustangs take another big step toward making the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Sachse did just that, holding off a big South Garland surge in the fourth quarter and then putting the game away with a pair of scores in the final three minutes en route to a 38-21 victory at Williams Stadium.
The Mustangs improve to 7-2 overall and 3-2 in 11-5A heading into next Friday's season finale against Naaman Forest with a playoff berth on the line. South Garland has a bye next week and finishes its regular season at 6-4 overall and 4-2 in district play, which is good enough to earn a spot in the Class 5A Division II playoffs in two weeks.
This was the latest in a string of games that featured fourth-quarter drama for Sachse. The Mustangs rallied to defeat Rowlett three weeks ago, 23-20, and then watched as Garland scored with less than 10 seconds left for a 23-21 win in their last game.
So while there might have been some anxious moments when South Garland trimmed a 17-point deficit to 24-21 with 7:01 to play, those were eased down the stretch when Kent Myers threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Brookins to make it 31-21 with 2:30 left.
After an interception by Alec Divalerio, Devine Ozigbo put the finishing touches on the win when he busted a fourth-and-one play for a 55-yard touchdown run with six seconds left.
"Each one of these were different match-ups and we felt like we should have won all three instead of being 2-1, but it didn't turn out that way," Sachse head coach Mark "Red" Behrens said. "But I like the way our kids have played late in games."
It was a tale of two different games. In the first half, the teams combined for 10 punts and 131 yards of offense, with the only score coming on a 14-yard touchdown run by Ozigbo late in the second quarter.
The fourth quarter featured 35 points, highlighted by a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Tyrique Edwards that gave Sachse a 24-7 lead with 11:15 left in the game.
But the biggest difference of the game might have been what happened in the third quarter when the Mustangs built their cushion.
After converting just one of six third downs in the first half, Sachse was 3-of-4 on a 14-play, 52-yard drive that led to a 34-yard field goal by John Pannell that made it 10-0.
After South Garland missed a field goal, the Mustangs moved 80 yards in 10 plays, converting two more third downs, with Ozigbo scoring from three yards out to make it 17-0 with 54 seconds left in the third.
The Colonels, who are fueled by their ground-oriented attack, ran only eight offensive plays in the period.
Ozigbo, who had 20 carries for 111 yards and three scores, and Myers, who had 90 yards on 19 attempts, helped Sachse turn the tables.
"Most times with our offense we want to speed the tempo up ... but we changed when we tried to run some time off the clock," Behrens said. "I thought converting some of those third downs paid off in the fourth."
South Garland scored on the opening play of the final quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Marquel McNac that made it 17-7.
But on the ensuing kickoff, Edwards broke two tackles and raced to the end zone for a 91-yard return.
The Colonels would not go away, as McNac scored on a 14-yard touchdown run and following a quick Sachse punt, Trey Porter threw a 44-yard scoring strike to Jerminic Smith to close to within 24-21 with 7:01 left.
But those draining drives in the third quarter took its toll on the South Garland defense late. Needing a stop, they were unable to get one, as the Mustangs took nearly five minutes off the clock, capped by the backbreaking touchdown pass from Myers to Brookins that pushed it back to a two-score game with 2:30 left.
Myers finished 13-of-22 for 178 yards and the one touchdown, with Edwards catching five passes for 76 yards.
McNac, the district's leading rusher, had the two touchdown runs, but was held in check, finishing with 17 carries for 82 yards.
The Sachse back seven was stout, holding the Colonels to 5-of-17 passing for only 79 yards.
The defenses had taken center stage in the first half, as neither team could move the ball effectively. Sachse drove inside the 20 early in the second quarter, but a fumble ended that threat.
The Mustangs finally took advantage of a short field late in the first half when Myers hit Edwards with a 28-yard completion and Ozigbo followed with a 14-yard scoring run that gave them a 7-0 lead at halftime.
While this was a big one for Sachse, they know their work is not done. There are several different tiebreaker situations that could come into effect depending on what happens on Friday night, but what the Mustangs did with the victory over South Garland is ensure that if they take care of business against Naaman Forest, none of those will matter.
"The bottom line is we need to beat Naaman Forest," Behrens said. "We're going to let them enjoy this one tonight and go to work tomorrow. We have a chance to have our best record ever at 8-2 and we could be 4-2 in district and we've never done that, so those are the things we are looking at and if we do that, it will take care of the tiebreakers and the playoffs."