ROCKWALL — The West Trojans just couldn’t get the momentum turned in time.
West gave its fans reason to hope in the fourth quarter as junior Wyatt Wolf made a couple of game-changing plays, but Mount Vernon ultimately swatted down the Trojans’ last chance and the Tigers prevailed with a 24-21 victory on Friday night at Wilkerson-Sanders Memorial Stadium.
West (9-3) trailed 24-7 past the midway point of the fourth quarter. But then Wolf altered the trajectory of the game when he returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown.
That score breathed life back into the Trojans’ sideline and the West defense quickly got the ball back when Billy Gann recovered a bad shotgun snap fumble at the Mt. Vernon 23.
A wild back-and-forth followed as both teams made plays and committed penalties. As a result, it took the Trojans nine plays and more than two minutes of game time to score.
West quarterback Landon Edwards hit Wolf for a six-yard touchdown that trimmed the Tigers’ lead to three with 38 seconds remaining.
But the Trojans weren’t finished.
West sophomore T.J. McCutcheon recovered the ensuing onside kick and West had a chance for a miracle comeback.
“It’s what our kids do. They never quit,” West coach David Woodard said. “They work hard and we practice those situations every week. We just leaned on our experience and gave ourselves a chance at the end. Just too many mistakes early for us to overcome.”
The Mt. Vernon defense, which intercepted four passes on the night, came up with another big play as defensive end Austin Reed batted down an Edwards pass on fourth-and-seven from the Tigers’ 38.
Mt. Vernon (10-2), led by former Baylor head football coach Art Briles, advances in the Class 3A Division I playoffs to face the Dallas Madison-versus-Mineola winner in the third round next week.
West went 4-7 in 2019, but turned things around this fall to finish second in its district and reach the area round of the playoffs. The Trojans fans gave their team a standing ovation after Woodard broke the huddle after the game.
“I’m just so proud of our seniors and the leadership they showed all year and the way that they took this team and put them on their shoulders and led them this far,” Woodard said. “They gave us a chance at the end tonight.”
Briles’ team didn’t show much of the coach’s signature offensive efficiency. Tigers quarterback Brock Nellor passed for 173 yards and rushed for 121. But all of Mt. Vernon’s touchdowns were set up by interceptions.
Tigers defensive back Braden Bennett intercepted an Edwards pass and returned it 20 yards for an apparent touchdown midway through the third quarter. A personal foul against Mt. Vernon erased the score, but gave the Tigers the ball at the West 35.
Three plays later, Nellor threw a short pass to Caydon Coffman on a jet sweep that Coffman turned into a 32-yard touchdown.
“This one’s going to hurt,” Woodard said. “We hadn’t turned the ball over and committed a lot of penalties like we did tonight. It’ll sting a little bit. It’ll be tough to get the taste out of our mouth.”
A pair of Mt. Vernon interceptions put West in a 17-0 hole in the first half.
The Tigers were leading, 3-0, but West was moving into Mt. Vernon territory early in the second quarter. A chop-block penalty against West put the Trojans behind the chains with a second-and-23 from the Tiger 45.
Looking to get a big chunk back, Edwards overthrew his intended target and defensive back Adrian Robles was there for the Tigers.
Robles shook off a tackle near midfield and raced 73 yards for a pick-six and a double-digit lead with 11:05 left in the first half.
West’s troubles were doubled on their next possession when Mt. Vernon linebacker Daniel Hamberg intercepted another Edwards pass. Hamberg didn’t turn it into immediate points, but he did give the Tigers the ball at the Trojans’ 15-yard line.
Three plays later, Nellor found Coffman in the back of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown and a 17-0 advantage.
West bounced back the best way the Trojans know how.
On West’s next possession, running back Trey Janek blasted through a hole up the middle and sprinted 62 yards for the Trojans’ first score of the contest. That cut Mt. Vernon’s lead to 17-7 with 8:40 remaining in the second quarter.
West had a chance to cut deeper into the Mt. Vernon lead after backing the Tigers up to their own 1-yard line. But Nellor unleashed a 52-yard punt under duress and the Trojans couldn’t capitalize after getting the ball near the 50.
Mt. Vernon missed a scoring opportunity at the end of the half after moving inside the West 10 in the closing ticks of the second quarter. Tigers kicker Adrian Diaz, who booted a 26-yard field goal for the initial lead in the first quarter, missed from 22.
With that, Mt. Vernon went to halftime ahead, 17-7.