When Dylan Cooke snagged the Mario Ballesteros pass out of the air for a touchdown with 41 seconds on the clock to set up a game tying 2-point conversion in the Six-Man Division I regional semifinals Friday, Hornets head coach Tim Trotter turned to his assistant and with a smile said, “All in a day’s work.”
In the Hornets’ “day of work,” they managed to pull off a 16-point come from behind victory to knock off the District 9 runner-up Knox City Greyhounds 49-48 in overtime.
“It was pretty incredible,” said Trotter. “The kids kept playing hard and never gave up.”
The Hornets had just allowed a 9-play, 72-yard touchdown drive and trailed 42-26 when they took possession with 5:18 remaining.
Knox City forced Walnut Spring to a third-and-11, but Kody Stack shifted the momentum in a hurry with a 19-yard run to give the Hornets a fresh set of downs.
On the ninth play of the drive, Stack hit Ballesteros with a 2-yard touchdown pass to make the score 42-32 with 1:52 left.
After missing on three of his first four 2-point kick attempts, Ryan Engelhardt drilled the PAT to make the score 42-34.
On the ensuing kickoff, Adolfo Morales lined up to kick the onside kick.
“This week was actually the first week in practice we had Adolfo kicking,” said Trotter.
The kick ricocheted off a Greyhound up-back and was recovered by Walnut Springs’ Trey Buscha with 1:48 left.
“Lucky for us, the onside worked out,” added Trotter.
Stack was sacked in the backfield for an 11 yard loss on the first play of the drive, but Knox City hurt themselves on the next play when Stack broke free for a 23-yard run that was aided by a facemask penalty. This set up the Hornets on the 12-yard line with a new set of downs.
Two plays later, Ballesteros threaded the 8-yard scoring pass to Cooke to set up the game-tying PAT. Engelhardt drilled the kick to tie the score 42-42.
A Hornet’s defensive stop over the final 35 seconds forced overtime.
Knox City went on offense first and on the fourth play, Stack forced and recovered what appeared to be a game-changing fumble but the official indicated the ball rolled out of bounds. Two plays later, Knox City found the end zone to take a 48-42 lead.
On the PAT kick attempt, a trio of penalties ultimately cost Knox City its season.
The first flag was offsides on Walnut Springs, moving the ball to the one-and-a-half yard line.
The next two flags were false starts, backing the Greyhounds up 10 yards and leading to a missed 28-yard kick attempt.
It took just three plays for Walnut Springs to find the end zone on its overtime possession, as Ballesteros hit Buscha on a 25-yard pass.
Engelhardt lined up for the field goal, but tucked the ball and sprinted toward to the corner of the end zone. The senior was stood up at the goal line but reached across the plane for the win.
“We went to Glen Rose this week to practice our field-goal kicking and kicking into the wind,” said Trotter. “We also have several fake field goals in our playbook. I asked the kids what they wanted to run and they said that one. It work out for us.”
Walnut Springs got on the board in the first quarter on an 80-yard kickoff return by Stack.
The Hornets added a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter on a 30-yard toss from Ballesteros to Buscha and a five-yard run by Engelhardt, but trailed 28-20 at halftime.
Stack wasted no time beginning the second-half scoring, breaking away for a 59-yard touchdown run on the first play. It proved to be the Hornets’ final score before their fourth-quarter rally.
Ballesteros was 7-15 threw the air for 100 yards and three touchdowns. Buscha was his top target with three receptions for 70 yards.
Stack was the leading rusher with 172 yards on 23 carries. Engelhardt added 59 yards on four carries.
Stack was also the team’s leading tackler with 14.
Dillon Rose (8), Cooke (7) and Ballesteros (7) were behind Stack in tackles. Ballesteros and Adan Galindo each had an interception while Stack recovered a pair of fumbles.
With the win, the Hornets have advanced to the state quarterfinals where they face District 9 champion Throckmorton. Throckmorton defeated may and Saint Jo by a combined score of 106-6 in the first two weeks of the playoffs.
“They’re fast and strong at every position,” said Trotter. “They have a lot of upperclassmen and they’re hungry because they lost deep in the playoffs last year. They’re on a mission.
“It’s our turn to try to get past them and we definitely can beat them,” he continued. “But we’re going to have to play a flawless game.”
Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Indian Stadium in Comanche.