By TONY EIERDAM
SPRINGTOWN – Many times in high school football, play on special teams can make the difference in a ball game between two competitive teams.
Two plays on the kickoff teams spelled doom for the Mineral Wells Rams, who saw a six-point halftime deficit turn into a crushing defeat as Springtown came away with a 47-6 win here Friday night in a District 6-3A contest.
The loss drops the Rams to 5-4 overall and 2-2 in district play. To qualify for the playoffs, the Rams must beat Kennedale on Friday at Ram Stadium and hope 1-3 Castleberry defeats 2-2 Lake Worth.
Should Mineral Wells and Lake Worth finish with the same 6-3A record, the Bullfrogs would advance to the playoffs by virtueof their win over MWHS two weeks ago.
Trailing 13-6, Springtown took advantage of sloppy tackling and returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown.
After the Rams failed to move the ball, the Porcupines scored again, this time on an 18-yard pass from freshman Landry Turner to receiver Caleb Whiteman to extend the Springtown lead to 27-6.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Springtown booted a line-drive kick into the wind that bounced over the head of Rams set back Omery Trevino.
Trevino, thinking the ball would reach the end zone and result in an automatic touchback, watched as the ball came to rest at the MWHS 2-yard line. But with plenty of time to pick the ball up, Trevino instead stepped aside as a hustling and alert Springtown coverage man scooped up the football and ran it in the end zone.
By rule, the kicking team cannot advance the ball, and one play later the Porcupines increased their lead to an insurmountable 34-6 when junior quarterback Caleb Moore snuck in from two yards out.
Springtown added another score in the third period and closed the scoring with a fourth-quarter touchdown.
“We had an absolute special team meltdown in the third quarter,” Rams head coach Chuck Lawrence said. “That turned a good game into a not-so-good game.”
The Rams trailed 13-6 late in the second quarter when Springtown threw what appeared to be an interception. The ball was tipped, and hustling defensive end Hunter Moss picked off the ball and scooted 20 yards down the right sideline to the end zone.
However, a late flag was thrown, and the Rams were called for a face-mask penalty. Officials gave the ball back to Springtown, claiming the foul occurred before the change of possession. The TD would have given the Rams a tremendous boost.
The MWHS defense had practically shut down the Springtown offense, and the Rams out-gained the Porcupines in total yardage at the half.
But instead of a 13-13 tie at the half, Springtown held on to a one-touchdown lead at the break.
Lawrence said he was not happy about the explanation given to him by officials.
“The official told me the face-mask penalty occurred before the pass,” Lawrence said. “That was a huge call. There were three or four huge calls in the first half that cost us points.”
That set up the unusual start to the third quarter as Springtown elevates its district mark to 3-1, and clinched a playoff spot.
Despite the loss, the Rams can still reach their goal of postseason play.
“I thought the defense played well, but I also thought the offense played well, but all units played well in the first half,” Lawrence said. “It was a well-played football game (before the third quarter), and my hat is off to our coaches for putting in a great game plan.
“It just kind of melted on us in the third quarter, and it got out of hand quickly. We just have to go back and regroup. We can still make the playoffs if we beat Kennedale and Castleberry beats Lake Worth, so we are still in it.”
Springtown gained early field position by sending a punt form midfield deep into Rams’ territory. MWHS was forced to punt, and it would be the line three-and-out for the rams in the first half.
The punt was returned to the Rams’ 13, and three plays later Whiteman scored on a three-yard touchdown run. The extra-point attempt failed as the hosts led 6-0.
The Rams came bak with an eight-play, 83-yard yard drive that ended on a 31-yard touchdown run up the middle by sophomore Josh Hardee.
Two key plays kept the drive alive. The first came on a 13-yard draw play by Gilbert Castorena that brought the ball close to midfield.
The second came on a 19-yard pass from quarterback Caleb Acosta to Castorena on a screen that gained 19 yards.
Castorena’s PAT kick sailed wide as the game was tied, 6-6.
Springtown took a 13-6 lead when Landry threw to Ryan Hester for a 24-yard touchdown play.
By TONY EIERDAM
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