Grapeland Moves to Area Round
By Chris Boothe
WILLIS – Rick Frauenberger’s perfectly placed pass to Cooper Sheridan with 57.5 seconds left, Sheridan’s first varsity touchdown, would complete a Grapeland Sandie comeback and send Grapeland to the Area Championship for the first time since 2008 with a 28-27 win over the Evadale Rebels. The touchdown pass completed a 14-point comeback, where the Sandies trailed 27-14 going into the fourth quarter of play.
Of course, the touchdown with 57 seconds left wasn’t the end of the game, as the Evadale Rebels would put a scare into the Sandies. Rebel quarterback Tyler Torres would connect with Jonathan Gravis for a 29-yard gain, putting Evadale deep in Sandie territory. Two plays later Torres would push the ball four yards forward to Brandon Totten with 5.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Torres, an excellent kicker, had already missed an extra point earlier in the evening, opening the door for the Sandies comeback. Still, the Rebels would go to their trusty kicker, to attempt a 39-yard field goal for the win.
“Please Lord, let it be short,” was the quick prayer from Sandies Head Coach Wayne Mahaffey. His prayer was answered.
The Sandies comeback was the second of the night, as Evadale jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead over Grapeland.
Torres would toss a nine-yard pass to Chase Williams for the first score of the night, before bruiser Coy Williams would punch in a three-yard touchdown run to give Evadale a 14-0 lead with 11:34 remaining in the second quarter.
Williams was a workhorse for the Rebels. The senior carried the ball 31 times for 227 yards. Williams carried the ball for 206 yards in the first and third quarters alone, but defensive adjustments by the Sandies would be the difference.
“Believe it or not, but we were on our fourth concept on defense. We worked all week on three, and we talked about the fourth in the coaches’ office. The fourth one in the office was the one that ended up being the thing that we were able to slow them down with,” said Mahaffey on the adjustments made to stop the Rebels.
The first Sandie comeback was kickstarted by a questionable decision from Evadale. A failed onsides kick would give the Sandies prime field position – field position that Frauenberger would pounce on. Pouring the ball to freshman BJ Howard, the Sandies would move the ball down the field quickly, culminating in a 26-yard touchdown reception for Howard.
Four minutes later Frauenberger would take to the skies again, this time dropping a 36-yard dime to Josh Ackley to tie the game at 14 apiece going into the half.
Evadale came out swinging in the second half. First a four-yard touchdown run from Torres would regain the lead for the Rebels. Then Torres would get his second touchdown pass of the night, this time a 19-yard pass to Lane Vinson. Torres would go on to miss the extra point, which would be crucial later in the game.
Grapeland began the comeback late in the third quarter, but would not strike pay dirt until the fourth quarter when Frauenberger punched the ball into the end zone from two yards out to make the score 27-21 with 11:39 remaining in the game.
Looking to milk the clock, Evadale continued to feed Williams. Facing a third and long, Evadale would dig deep into the playbook, using a reverse to Dillon Johnson to initially run for a first down. However, behind the play a Rebel would deliver a vicious hit to Grapeland’s Josh Ackley. The hit would not only knock Ackley from the game, but would result in a 15-yard penalty on the Rebels and result in an ejection of the player.
The Sandies would stop Evadale on third down and force a punt, setting up the final drive. Frauenberger would connect with Howard early in the drive, but it was the running of Damieon Smith that really sparked the drive. Smith would carry the ball for 39 yards on the drive, including a huge 23-yard run to put the Sandies in the red zone. From there, Frauenberger and Sheridan would take care of the rest.
Sheridan was one of many players that stepped up after Ackley’s injury. Ackley typically handles the extra point duties, but the go-ahead XP came from Brayden Cheatham.
Late in the game, Coach Mahaffey attributed their success to the, “Incredible job of people stepping up due to attrition when they had to and making plays.”
Overall, the Sandies put up huge numbers, finishing the night with 327 yards of offense. Frauenberger finished the night with 191 yards passing and three touchdowns on 15 of 30 passing, while carrying the ball for 29 yards on nine carries with a touchdown. Smith finished the night with a team-best 77 yards on 11 carries, as the Sandies rushed for 136 yards as a team.
The Sandies will now face the Cumby Trojans in the Area Championship. That game will be Friday, November 24 at Panther Stadium in Mabank with kickoff scheduled for 7:00 pm. Cumby defeated Hubbard 40-0 on Friday night.