A “hearbreaking loss” is a sports cliché, but to the Paschal Panthers, it probably seemed like the most appropriate way to describe their overtime loss to Sam Houston in Arlington Friday.
The still-winless Panthers ended regulation play tied at 21 points with the Texans before the Arlington school’s Homecoming crowd at Wilemon Field.
Then quarterback Chris Hanson threw his lone interception in overtime to Sam Houston defensive back David Mustapha in the corner of the end zone. The turnover set up Texan kicker Miguel Alvarez for a 27-yard field goal, which he missed. But Paschal was called offside and Alvarez got another chance.
The ensuing 22-yard field goal was good to seal the Texans’ victory.
“We played hard,” running back Justin Woodard said. “We just got unlucky. That’s all I can say.”
Woodard powered a Panther offense that jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter. But after Woodard suffered an ankle injury on the last play of the first half, Paschal saw its offensive production halt and its lead slowly evaporate.
“The long halftime hurt us. Sometimes in football you get banged up, but you don’t feel it until later,” head coach Matt Cook said. “That was a 30 minute halftime. He got stiff and we couldn’t get him loose again.”
Woodard returned to the game late in the fourth quarter to score the game-tying touchdown and finish with 71 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The true hero of Paschal’s struggling offense in the fourth quarter though was Hanson. Down 21-14 with less than two minutes remaining and on the Sam Houston 40-yard-line, Hanson found daylight on a 37-yard run to set up Woodard for the final score of regulation.
“I just saw the hole open up and made a cut to the outside,” Hanson said. “Thankfully my receivers were making great downfield blocks.”
The Panthers’ defense also looked impressive in their best game of the season so far. Paschal forced six turnovers and played hard against a faster and more athletic Sam Houston team.
Defensive back Mike Garcia led the defensive effort with an evident swagger. He blanketed the field with hard hits and impressive pass deflections. Garcia also grabbed the first interception of the game.
“Honestly, I have nothing much to say other than I wouldn’t trade this defense for anything,” Garcia said as he held back tears. ”These guys mean everything to me and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Cook said that it was the Texans’ quarterback Kendall Jackson who proved to be the biggest factor in Paschal’s loss. Jackson put Sam Houston on his shoulders, particularly in the second half, completing 15 of 24 passes for 189 yards and two long touchdowns and also rushing for 93 yards. Jackson had two interceptions and one fumble.
Although it was a difficult loss, the Panthers have made leaps and bounds of improvement across the board and have a lot to build on moving forward.
The Panthers played relatively mistake-free, committing only two penalties compared to Sam Houston’s 12.
The Panthers had lost their previous three games by an average deficit of 33.7 points.
The Panthers said that they are ready to move forward following Friday’s overtime loss.
“It was definitely a heartbreaking loss, but we’ve got to come out next week ready to beat North Crowley,” Hanson said.
Paschal will be back in Fort Worth to face the North Crowley Panthers (1-3) on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Farrington Field.