Turnovers spur Mavericks to 30-14 win over ‘Cats
By Tommy Wells
Coleman Chronicle & Democrat Voice
EASTLAND – The Eastland Mavericks officially put the Coleman Bluecats into playoff mode on Friday night in front of a large crowd at Maverick Stadium. Sparked by two first-quarter turnovers, the Mavericks jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead and then held on to claim a 30-14 victory in a key District 4-3A battle.
The loss dropped Coleman to 5-3 for the season and, more importantly left the Bluecats at 1-2 in district play and into a tie for third in the standings. Eastland improved to 6-2 and 3-0 in district competition.
Coleman didn’t do itself any favors early in the contest. The Bluecats fumbled away each of their first two possessions of the night and enabled the Mavericks to build an early cushion.
“The bottom line is we didn’t win the turnover battle and I think that was the difference in the game,” said head coach John Elder. “We lost all our momentum early on and spent most of the first half trying to come back. We had three possessions in the first half and fumbled on two of them. We gave them a short field and you can’t do that against a team that is as explosive as they are.”
The Mavericks didn’t look too explosive on their first drive. The district’s top offensive squad through the first eight weeks of the season, Eastland struggled to move the ball. Following a 10-yard gain on first down, the Mavericks hit the skids, moving the ball just two yards in their next three plays before being forced to punt from their own 43.
Coleman put itself in deep trouble seconds later by fumbling away the ball on their first play from scrimmage. Eastland scooped up the ball at the CHS 47.
Eastland quarterback Mason Wright didn’t waste any time in converting the turnover into points. On the Mavs’ first play from scrimmage, the senior rifled a pass over the middle of the field to David Vasquez, who completed the 47-yard touchdown play by darting into the end zone. J.R. Fullen’s ensuing PAT gave Eastland a 7-0 lead with 10:11 left in the opening frame.
The worst was far from over for the Bluecats. Coleman fumbled away its next possession, giving the Mavericks a first down at the CHS 42.
Eastland’s second score didn’t come as easy. The Mavericks, thanks to a 15-yard personal foul penalty, managed only to drive to the Bluecat 32 before calling on Fullen to boot a 42-yard field goal to up its lead to 10-0 with 3:42 left in the first quarter.
Bryson Hammonds and the CHS offense managed to get on track from there. The Bluecats closed out the first period of play by starting a 15-play drive that ate almost 10 minutes off the clock.
Hammonds turned in the key play on Coleman’s march on the first play of the second quarter. With his team facing a fourth-and-3 situation from its own 43, the CHS senior called his own number and scrambled for a 20-yard gain and a first down at the EHS 37. After a holding penalty had backed the Bluecats to the Maverick 46, Hammonds came up big again by hitting Xavier Nunez with a 25-yard pass to the Eastland 21. Trotter Harris reeled off runs of 6, 5, 4 and 4 yards over the next few plays and pushed the ball to the Maverick 1.
Hammonds capped the 75-yard drive with 5:59 left inthe first half by taking a quick snap from center and pushing his way into the end zone on a quarterback sneak. His touchdown – along with Jett Allen’s extra-point kick, cut Eastland’s lead to 10-7.
Eastland answered back with a long drive of its own on its next series. The Mavericks went 67 yards in 14 plays before running back Chris Martinez took a handoff and barreled his way into the end zone from 7 yards out with 20 seconds left in the opening half. Martinez shouldered the bulk of the load for the Mavs on the drive, rolling up 39 yards on eight carries en route to upping the EHS lead to 10, at 17-7, at the half.
A senior, Martinez finished the contest with a game-high 189 yards on 25 attempts.
Coleman didn’t roll over and play dead. The Bluecats fought themselves back into the contest on the first series of the second half. Hammonds engineered an impressive 13-play, 75-yard campaign that ate almost 8 minutes off the clock and enabled the Bluecats to pull to within 17-14.
Darrian Hunter gave the CHS offense a big spark early in the drive. The senior wideout hauled in a clutch 15-yard pass from Hammonds on a third-down play. From there, Riley Harris, Cole Lawson and Trotter Harris combined for six straight runs and pushed the ball to the Eastland 35.
Harris came up big for the Bluecats from there. The junior running back pulled in a 28-yard pass from Hammonds on a third-and-8 play and moved the ball to the EHS 5. Hammonds froze the Maverick defensive secondary early on the play by taking the snap from center and scrambling toward the line of scrimmage. When the EHS defenders moved up to prevent the run, he lofted a short pass to Harris, who raced to the Maverick 5.
Three plays later, Trey Sartain took a handoff from Hammonds and bulled his way into the end zone.
Unfortunately for Coleman, that turned out to be as close as they could get. Martinez reeled off touchdown runs of 22 and 1 yards in the fourth quarter and helped Eastland retain its stranglehold on the district lead.
Despite the team’s second straight loss, Elder said the Bluecats could still determine their own destiny. A win in either of their final two games will give Coleman a berth in the postseason.
“It is what it is,” said Elder. “Our kids are tough and will bounce back. We’ll come back and, hopefully, win out and get into the playoffs.”