By TONY EIERDAM
Just call them the 2013 District 6-3A freshman football district champions.
Paced by a last-minute defensive stand, the Mineral Wells Rams freshman football team hung on to defeat Kennedale, 20-14, to win the District 6-3A championship Thursday night at Ram Stadium.
The Rams finish with a 3-0 district mark and an 8-2 record overall. The Rams were 8-1 this year against freshman teams.
Both the Rams and Kennedale came into the contest with undefeated district records as both defeated Castleberry and Lake Worth. District 6-3A schools Fort Worth Diamond Hill and Castleberry did not field freshman teams this season.
Rams freshman head coach Will Burnes said the team worked hard every day in practice and that it translated to success on the field.
“I am very proud of this team,” Burnes said. “What we keep telling them is they have to get better every day and that they are our future, and they did a heck of a job each week of doing that.
“Our coaching staff worked hard with this group, and the staff is very proud of what the kids accomplished.
“It’s a good group that works hard and loves to play football. Some of these guys may play varsity next year, but that has yet to be determined. They still have the offseason program to get through and August (2014) workouts as well.”
The Rams scored first but Kennedale answered with two scores before the Rams tied the contest again.
But with the score 14-14 in the fourth quarter, the game’s high drama began to unfold.
With 9:44 left to play Kennedale began what it hoped would be a go-ahead drive from its own 12. But after allowing a first down the Rams held and forced the Wildcats to punt with 5:45 remaining in the contest.
The Rams caught a huge break when the snap on the punt flew over the Kennedale’s punter’s head as the Rams recovered at the KHS 8-yard line.
Two plays later, Morales scored his second touchdown of the game on a six-yard run off right tackle for a 20-14 lead. However, the Wildcats blocked the extra-point attempt as MWHS led by six with 4:51 left to play.
Eager to score the game-tying touchdown and knowing an extra point would give them the lead, Kennedale drove 30 yards on seven plays before it faced a fourth and eight from the MW 37.
The Wildcats kept the drive alive by completing an 11-yard pass on a diving catch with 1:20 left to play.
But on the next play, the Rams defense came through with a big hit that caused a fumble that was recovered by MWHS defensive back Cameron Weiss.
It was at this point that the plot thickened.
Kennedale had three timeouts remaining and used all three, and on third down disaster occurred as the Rams fumbled the ball to the Wildcats, giving Kennedale one more chance with 50 seconds left to play.
After a short pass completion stopped the clock when the KHS receiver went out of bounds, the ‘Cats came back with an outside running play to try and set up one more passing play to the end zone.
But on the running play the Kennedale running back inexplicably did not run out of bounds when he was close to the sideline and the hustling Rams defense kept the runner in bounds as the clock was winding down under 10 seconds.
The Wildcats hurried to the line and got a snap off with one tick left on the clock, but the quarterback was pressured by a Rams’ defender and his pass to the end zone fell harmlessly to the ground and near no receivers as the Rams danced on the field to celebrate their district championship.
A key element to the Rams’ success Thursday was the play of the offensive line, which took on a larger Kennedale defensive line. But the line gave running back Johnny Morales holes to run through and allowed quarterback Trent Guinn time to throw.
“Coach (Sean) Harvey does a good job of working with those guys and getting them to fire off the ball,” Burnes said. “It’s easy to block when Johnny is running hard and running through the holes they are creating for him.
“Trent also played a solid game and did what he needed to do. He is a solid guy who does anything for the team.”
The Rams took the lead on their first drive in the first quarter on a 10-yard touchdown run by Morales. A key play in the drive was a 37-yard pass completion from Guinn to Weiss. Morales also had a run of 20 yards and another of 10 before his TD scamper. Eduardo Rasberry booted the extra point to give the Rams a 7-0 lead.
Kennedale answered on its ensuing drive on a nine-yard touchdown run, and the ‘Cats ran in the conversion to take an 8-7 lead.
Kennedale added a TD in the third quarter on a 23-yard run, but the Wildcats’ pass on the two-point conversion failed as KHS led 14-7.
The Rams came right back and scored on a 10-play, 57-yard drive that was capped by a two-yard pass on third and goal from Guinn to Stefon Sandoval. Rasberry added the PAT kick to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:55 left to play.