A remarkable and special season ended today at Burleson ISD Stadium for the Trinity Christian Eagles.
In its first season of 11-man football, TCA not only defied the odds by finishing second in its district, but also by finishing the season with a 10-3 record and as a state semifinalist.
Its initial season of 11-man football ended today when the No. 2 Colleyville Covenant Christian Academy Cougars came back from a 20-point halftime deficit to come away with a 35-27 victory over the Eagles in the state semifinals.
Covenant Christian Academy will advance to next week’s TAPPS Division III state championship game in Waco.
“I am proud of the kids. They have played with great effort all year,” Eagles head coach Joe Hamstra said. “We are not the biggest kids out there by any stretch, but our kids just stood toe-to-toe with the No. 2 or No. 1 team – depending on which poll you look at – in the state (in TAPPS Division III).
“I am proud as heck of them.”
It was a tale of two halves as TCA, behind a triple-option offense that early on confused the Cougars, raced out to a 27-7 lead at the half.
But the halftime break gave CCA coaches a chance to make adjustments, and it resulted in 28 unanswered points.
CCA took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched to the end zone with a five-play, 63-yard drive capped by a 39-yard run by quarterback Joshua Stith. On the play, Stith pulled down the ball and scrambled to the middle, made two defenders miss with a crafty juke and sprinted across the goal line with 10:30 left in the third quarter.
Placekicker Seth Keller booted the extra point to cut the Eagles’ lead to 27-14.
CCA held TCA three and out on the Eagles’ first possession of the second half, then followed with a four-play drive that ended with a nine-yard touchdown run on a counter play by running back Alan Maldonado.
Keller added the PAT, and with 7:38 left in the third period the Cougars cut the Eagles’ lead to 27-21, where it remained at the end of the third quarter.
To begin the fourth quarter, CCA forced TCA to punt and began a drive from its own 42. CCA got into scoring position after Stith connected with receiver Daniel Turner for a 45-yard gain to the TCA 2. On the next play, sophomore running back Isaiah Diggs crashed over the goal line from two yards out.
Keller added the PAT as CCA took a 28-27 lead with 10:13 left to play.
A CCA interception on TCA’s ensuing possession by gave the Cougars the ball at the TCA 17. The mark to the 17 was aided by a personal foul penalty on the Eagles.
TCA tightened and forced a third and one from its own 8, but Maldonado rambled over right tackle for five yards and a first down. Two plays later, Diggs scored from two yards out off right tackle with 6:50 remaining in the contest.
Keller added the critical extra point to extend the Cougars’ lead to 35-27.
CCA caught a huge break when TCA lost a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Eagles, however, got the ball back when they recovered a Diggs’ fumble at their own 29. TCA had new life.
Knowing he needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game, TCA senior quarterback Calib Guynes went to work. He completed a 12-yard pass to sophomore receiver Preston Gist and followed with a completed pass of 16 yards to senior running back Nathan Chesney, which brought the ball to the CCA 43.
But after three plays netted minus-2 yards, Guynes was facing a fourth and 12 from the CCA 48. On the ensuing play Guynes was sacked, and Covenant ran out the clock to preserve the win.
“They (CCA defense) started bringing a lot of pressure on us in the second half, and we couldn’t handle it,” Hamstra said. “They did a good job of adjusting, and we didn’t make plays down the stretch.
“I told our kids after the game that I was just proud of them and I love them. We have some great seniors, and I appreciate them so much for what they have done for our program. This senior class and this team have set the bar for us moving forward.
“They have nothing to be ashamed of. We were a 28-point underdog today and we gave them everything they wanted.”
TCA scored on four of its five drives in the first half.
TCA got on the board first with an impressive 14-play, 63-yard drive that ended on a one-yard touchdown run off left tackle by Chesney. The drive ate 7:19 seconds off the clock as Covenant had trouble figuring out the Eagles’ triple-option rushing attack.
The big play in the drive was a 10-yard pass completion on third and 9 from Guynes to Chesney to the CCA 3. The Eagles scored two plays later.
Nathan Montano booted the extra point to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
The Eagles caught a break on Covenant’s first possession when on second down senior defensive end Nick Marcantonio recovered a fumble at the CCA 42.
Guynes went back to work with the triple option, and he kept on first down for 19 yards to bring the ball to the CCA 23. Two Chesney carries gained 19 yards, and two plays later Guynes sneaked across the goal line from three yards out for a score.
Montano added the extra point, and with 2:11 left in the first quarter the Eagles took a 14-0 lead.
CCA followed with a touchdown drive aided by a TCA lost fumble on a punt return. Diggs reached the end zone from five yards with 11:13 left in the second period. Keller booted the extra point to cut the Eagles’ lead to 14-7.
The Eagles countered with six consecutive running plays to move the ball to the CCA 30. On third and 15, Guynes threw a fade pass down the right sideline that was gobbled up by Chesney between two defenders to complete a 30-yard touchdown play.
Montano added the PAT to extend the Eagles’ lead to 21-7 with 6:50 remaining in the half.
An interception by Garrett Green set up the final TCA score of the opening half.
Guynes converted two third-down plays in the drive, the second for a score. On third and 10 from the CCA 30, Guynes’ passing pocket collapsed and the senior scrambled out of trouble for 17 yards and a key first down.
On third and 10 from the CCA 13, Guynes fired a 3-yard TD pass to Chesney to increase the Eagles’ advantage to 27-7. The PAT failed as TCA took a 20-point lead into the locker room at the half.