By CLINT FOSTER
SPRINGTOWN – It wasn’t how the Gordon Longhorns (7-5) pictured their season ending.
Two teams coming off of huge first round upsets came into Porcupine Stadium for the second round of the Class Six-Man Region 3 Division I playoffs, where hellacious weather and mistakes would be the theme of the evening. In the end, one Cinderella story would continue while another would see their glass slipper shattered into a thousand pieces.
In driving rain with freezing gusts of wind from the north up to 30 mph, the ‘Horns fell short against the Savoy Cardinals (8-3), 22-6, who continued their postseason dreams as they hoisted their regional championship trophy late Thursday night.
“We just didn’t execute the way we needed to,” head coach Joe Kostiha said. “We missed a lot of blocks, missed a lot of assignments and didn’t tackle well on defense. But all the credit in the world to Savoy.
“They played a great game, they played what their style was and they did a good job.”
Gordon was heavily favored going into Thursday’s game, having won six-straight games including a resounding 44-28 first round playoff upset against Lometa – who was ranked 28 spots ahead of the Longhorns by sixmanfootball.com. Conversely Savoy was riding a five-game winning streak, having eked out a 38-36 victory over Walnut Springs in their first round playoff game. But as two teams met in such chilly conditions, it was the Cardinals who were able to use their size and physicality, as well as take advantage of a couple big plays, to keep their season going.
After a lightning delay pushed the start of the game to more than an hour late, both teams struggled to find rhythm offensively, playing to a 0-0 tie until Savoy struck first on a touchdown run with 46 seconds until halftime.
In the third quarter once the rain had subsided but the winds stayed strong, the Cards scored quickly again on a one-play drive to build a 14-0 lead.
But the ‘Horns fought back, putting together their best drive of the game culminating in a one-yard rumble into the endzone by Jacob Wigington.
Savoy answered on the ensuing drive with a 36-yard run to pay dirt with 4:36 left to play.
The death knell came when the ‘Horns capped off another promising drive deep into Cardinal territory with an interception in the end zone, allowing Savoy to run out the clock and secure the win.
Poor weather conditions clearly hampered the ‘Horns in their season finale, particularly in their usually-potent passing attack, but Kostiha said they would not use it as an excuse.
“We throw the ball so much that it obviously slowed us down,” he said. “But (Savoy) played in the same weather.
“It’s not an excuse or a crutch. We just didn’t overcome it as well as they did.”
Ultimately, Kostiha said his team’s ability to overcome its youth and slow start to get to the second round of the playoffs made for a memorable first season as Gordon’s head coach.
“It was a great season,” Kostiha said. “We had a lot of fun. It was a great senior class. I just wish we wouldn’t have had it end like this.”
With such a young team, including only eight departing seniors including Jacob Wigington and Brandon Gonzales – the only two ‘Horns to have played a single varsity snap before this season – hopes are high in Gordon for next season. Kostiha said he has big plans for this offseason.
“We’ve got a lot of kids coming back; a lot of freshmen, sophomores and juniors that started and played a ton,” he said. “I’ve always tried to win in the offseason.
“I think that we’re going to improve. Our kids have improved their bodies already. I’m excited to have another year to be able to build up their bodies and see where we can go from there. “