Trinity Christian Academy came back from an 11-point deficit with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat Boerne Geneva School, 15-14, and win the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Division III state championship Friday afternoon at Panther Stadium on the campus of Hewitt Midway High School.
It was the first time in school history that TCA (11-3) has won an 11-man state championship.
TCA head coach Joe Hamstra said he did not have a timetable on when TCA – in its third year of 11-man football – could win a state title at this level when he came to the school in its last year of six-man football.
“No, even though I didn’t put a time on it, I did not think we could win state in three years,” he said. “I am so proud of these guys for battling back. No one was discouraged (when down 14-3 in the fourth quarter), and the guys just kept working. This feels so good.”
Trailing 14-3, TCA got back into the game when quarterback Tito Gabaldon sent a pass down the sideline to receiver Preston Gist at about the Geneva 45. The pass was deflected by a GHS defensive back, but Gist alertly stayed focused on the ball, and when he pulled it down at about the 40 he beat one defensive back on his sprint to the end zone to cut the lead to 14-9 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
TCA went for the two-point conversion but did not reach the end zone, leaving the score at 14-9.
After forcing a punt, TCA took over at its own 30 with 6:15 left in the game.
Gist had two long runs at the beginning of the drive, the first for 16 yards and another for 22 that brought the ball to the GHS 19.
Runs by Caleb Chesney and a GHS offsides penalty brought the ball to the GHS 1, but on the next play TCA was whistled for illegal procedure, putting the ball back to the GHS 6.
On third and goal from the six, TCA lost two yards to set up a fourth and goal from the GHS 8. On a throw to the end zone on the next play, GHS was called for defensive holding to give TCA new life and the ball at the 3.
On first and goal, Chesney gained two yards, and on second and goal from the one, Gabaldon called his own number and blasted into the end zone with 31 seconds left to play to give TCA a 15-14 lead.
The two-point run failed, and TCA forced GHS out on downs to win the state championship.
“When I came here as a freshman we were playing six-man football,” Chesney said. “I can’t believe we won state in my senior year. This is unbelievable.”
Geneva took a 7-0 lead on its opening possession, capping a three-play, 45-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run by running back Devon Aherns with Austin Dennis booting the extra point.
The game, played for the most part with rain falling, turned defensive as each team traded punts twice and GHS recovered a TCA fumble.
TCA got on the board when an eight-play drive stalled deep in GHS territory. Cobey Bixler booted a 24-yard field goal with 9:00 left in the second quarter to cut Geneva’s lead to 7-3.
Late in the opening half TCA drove the ball to Geneva’s 25, but GHS defensive back Ethan Houser – also GHS’ starting QB – intercepted a pass and returned the pick to the TCA 8.
Two plays later, Ahrens crossed the goal line from two yards out, and with 1:30 left in the half, Dennis added the PAT to extend the lead to 14-3, where it remained at the half.