Cougars Come Up Short in Season Opener
A fumbled snap between quarterback and center proved costly as Palestine-Wheatley came up with the ball with 13 seconds left in the game to hang on for a 27-20 win over Rector (0-1) last Tuesday in Palestine.
The Patriots got on the board first as their running back took a swing pass and scampered 63 yards for the touchdown. The extra-point was good making it 7-0 Palestine-Wheatley with 11:10 left. Rector's Zach McKluskey recovered the enusing onside kick giving the Cougars the ball at midfield. The Cougars' offense could not get on track and were forced to punt the ball away with the Patriots starting thier next series on their own 15-yard line. The Rector defense came up big at Trace Sanders intercepted a middle screen pass and returned it to the Patriots' four-yard line with 8:58 left. Kale Hardin got the Cougars on the board a couple plays later with a four-yard touchdown run to make it 7-6. The two-point pass from Hunter McNeely to Parker Bucy was incomplete leaving the score 7-6 Patriots. Palestine-Wheatley returned the kick-off for a touchdown only to have it brought back due to a penalty. A holding call on the Partriots and a sack by Gage Parrish led to the Patriots having to punt. The Palestine-Wheatley punter touched his knee on the ground as he fielded the snap giving the ball to the Cougars on the Patriots' 32-yard line with 2:56 left. Rector moved the ball to the Patriots' 18-yard line, coverting a fourth and two, as the quarter ended with Palestine-Wheatley up 7-6.
Bad luck would strike Rector as the Palestine-Wheatley defender stepped in front of a McNeely pass and took it over 80 yards for a touchdown. The extra-point was no good leaving the score 13-6 Patriots. Connor Austin took the following onside kick and returned it to the Patriots' 19-yard line to set the Cougars up in the red zone. Max Ford took a swing pass down to the four-yard line before McNeely found Conly Lockhart open in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown pass with 7:47 left. Frank Herrera was stopped on the two-point conversion run to make the score 13-12 Patriots. Palestine-Wheatley converted two fourth down plays on their next series before scoring on 20-yard touchdown run with just over four minutes left in the half. The point-after was no good leaving the score 19-12 Patriots. Rector was forced to punt on their next possession as the ball was downed on the Palestine-Wheatley five-yard line. The Cougars' defense came up big again as Kyler Parrish sacked the Patriots' quarterback in the end zone for a safety to make the score 19-14 Palestine-Wheatley with 1:22 left. The Patriots punted the ball out of bounds at their own 41-yard line where Rector took possession. The Cougars moved the ball to the 20-yard line before turning the ball over on downs. The Patriots fumbled the ball with Rector recovering with what looked like just over a second left but the clock ran out taking the teams to half with Palestine-Wheatley up 19-14.
Austin fell on the squib kick for Rector to start the third quarter giving the Cougars the ball at midfield. The Patriots came up with an interception as their own 10-yard line with 10:19 left. The Rector defense forced Palestine-Wheatley to punt, taking possession at the Patriots' 39-yard line with 7:55 left and the score still 19-14 Patriots. The Cougars' offense couldn't muster any yardage and punted away with the ball being downed at the Palestine-Wheatley three-yard line with 5:27 left. The Rector defense stiffened and forced a punt with Ford taking the ball to the Patriots' 24-yard line with four minutes left. Rector moved the ball to the Palestine-Wheatley five-yard line before a fourth down pass from McNeely to Bucy fell incomplete giving the ball back to the Patriots with 1:29 left. Palestine-Wheatley moved the ball to their own 22-yard line as the third quarter came to an end with the Patriots still up 19-14.
A big run moved the ball out to the 47-yard line for the Patriots only to see Hardin fall on a fumble two plays later to give Rector the ball on the Palestine-Wheatley 48-yard line. McNeely took blind side hit on a pass play coughing up the ball as the Patriots scooped it up and went 55 yards for the score with 7:36 left. The two-point conversion was good to make the score 27-14 Patriots. The Cougars took advantage of a pass interference all and conversion on fourth down to move the ball down to the Patriots' eight-yard line where Ford would carry the ball in to make the score 27-20 Palestine-Wheatley. Ford's halfback pass to Nick Mesa was incomplete on the two-point coversion try. The Patriots recoverd Rector's onside kick attempt at their own 49-yard line. The Cougars forced Palestine-Wheatley to punt with 1:39 left. A pass interference call and a pass from McNeely to Mesa moved the ball to the Patriots' 37-yard line with 35 seconds left. Bucy came in to play quarterback as the snap hit the ground with Palestine-Wheatley recovering with 13 seconds left to secure the win.
"We played our tails off and never gave up," Rector head coach Dave Hendrix said after the game. "We've made great strides and are a totally different team from last year," Hendrix added. "We gave up two or three big plays and could have given up a couple times but we didn't and I'm proud of our team for taking it down to the wire," Hendrix said.