With just seven seconds to go last Friday, Wichita Falls Notre Dame scored the winning touchdown to prevent the North Central Texas Academy Pioneers from reaching the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class A six-man state championship game with a 55-48 win.

The Pioneers finished with an 8-5 season record with the loss in the state semifinal matchup, which was played in Bryson.

NCTA coach Kirby Rasco said his Pioneers came close to scoring on a crucial one-yard run just before halftime, but the referees ruled that the ball carrier was stopped just short of the goal line.

Rasco said that helped swing the momentum toward the Knights in the second half.

"The third quarter was not a good stretch for us either,” Rasco said. “But give (Notre Dame’s) defense the credit because they held us scoreless for the (third) period.”  

With the Pioneers leading 48-47 in the final quarter, the Knights took possession of the ball and drove to score what proved to be the winning touchdown – eating up most of the time left in the contest.

Rasco said it was a typical game between the Pioneers and the Knights – intense, with both squads playing hard.

“They scored with 7 seconds left and we had one play to cover about 50 yards and couldn’t get in,” Rasco said. “I am very proud of our kids and how they played an extremely tough schedule this year. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of guys.”

Notre Dame (7-4) will play for the TAPPS Class A six-man state championship at 3:05 p.m. today (Thursday, Dec. 1) at Hewitt Midway’s Panther Stadium against top-ranked Baytown Christian (12-0). The Knights also reached last year’s state title game before losing.

The Pioneers got another outstanding offensive performance from Caleb Lawrence, who ran 19 times for 313 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught one pass for four yards.

Also, Nash Siatchetema threw for a pair of TDs, completing 6 of 16 passes for 85 yards.

Marc Langston and Cole Alberts each scored one TD on pass receptions. Langston caught two passes for 53 yards, and Alberts had two for 23.

Rasco said that limiting Notre Dame to 55 points was a better achievement than it may appear.

“This might sound funny with us giving up 55 points, but I was proud of how our defense played,” he stated. “They have a kid who is extremely talented and we did a good job containing him for most of the game.”

Josh Oma spearheaded NCTA’s defense with 11 tackles, while Siatchetema recorded 10 stops. Langston and Alberts posted eight tackles each, Cedric Djontu had six and Bob Hu added five.