With China Spring on the ropes and trailing by three with just over three minutes to play in the contest, Tiger Stadium erupted when the Glen Rose defense forced a high pass on third-and-18 on Friday night.
The heart-pounding applause was quickly replaced by the sound of gut-checking silence as the Tiger faithful awaited the explanation of the dirty laundry on the 50-yard line.
The five seconds of silence, which seemed like eternity, exploded into thunderous “boos” as the official indicated a defensive holding call on the opposite side of the field, giving the Cougars a new set of downs and leaving the Tigers on the heels of their first district loss and no chance at an outright 7-3A championship.
“I didn’t see it,” said head coach Tommy Dunn concerning the defensive holding call. “I thought it was unnecessary and it was the difference (in the game). We would have gotten the ball with a chance to go down and score to take the lead. That was something that could have gone without being called.”
China Spring punched it in three plays and a Glen Rose penalty later when Michael Armstrong scampered in from 21 yards out to put the Cougars ahead 47-36 with 2:34 left in the contest.
Glen Rose marched down the field on the strength of two China Spring penalties, a 20-yard run by Colt Plaster and an 11-yard third-down conversion pass from Plaster to Kevin Brooks. The Tigers completed the drive with a 10-yard pass from Plaster to Ty Taylor and a two-point conversion to trail by three at 47-44 with 1:31 left in the game.
Immanuel Morales squibbed an impressive onside kick attempt, but to no avail. China Spring’s Reece Meador pounced on the 10-yard kickoff to seal the victory for the Cougars.
“I was disappointed. The kids really wanted this game and I know the community did, too. I’m just disappointed that we weren’t able to deliver it for them,” Dunn said. “It was a hard fought battle. Both teams made plays, but they made one more play than we did and that’s why they won the game.”
China Spring got the scoring started in the first 26 seconds of the game when Zach Hogeda took a wide receiver screen pass from Brian Bell 55 yards to the house on the second play from scrimmage.
The Tigers special teams got their hands on the Collin Cranfill extra point for the first of three blocked kicks on the night.
The Glen Rose offense sputtered on its first possession, going three-and-out, but the Tiger defense forced an Armstrong fumble that was scooped up by Collin Lane.
Plaster and the offense answered the call on possession No. 2.
An 11-yard scamper by Dylan Rodriguez, a 22-yard run by Plaster and a 39-yard pass to a diving Kevin Brooks set up a 10-yard touchdown trot by Plaster and the Tanner Tongate extra point gave Glen Rose a slim lead at 7-6 with 8:28 left in the quarter.
After swapping punts, the Cougars appeared prime to take the lead again.
Bell led the offense on a nine play, 66-yard drive to set up fourth-and-goal from the Tiger one, but Graham Noell and Kevin Brooks got in the backfield to drop Bell for a seven-yard loss.
The theme of the night continued. The Tiger defense would make plays, but so would China Spring’s stop troops.
Following the goal line stand, Glen Rose was forced to punt again. However, Kevin Brooks picked Bell off two plays later to set up the Tiger offense at midfield.
Simeon Crow returned the favor, however, picking Plaster off on the ensuing possession. The Crow pick set up a three-yard touchdown toss from Bell to Hogeda. The two-point try was unsuccessful and the Cougars led 12-7 with 7:36 left in the half.
Glen Rose continued its string of punts, leading to another Cougar score, this time an 83-yard touchdown pass on a wide receiver screen to Kyal Meyers, and the PAT put China Spring on top 19-7.
The Tiger offense found a spark with time winding down in the first half as Plaster hit Taylor again for a 16-yard score to make it 19-14.
China Spring appeared ready to add three more to its side of the ledger in the closing seconds of the half, but Dylan Rodriguez got a hand on it for block No. 2.
Chase Evatt opened the second half with a 64-yard touchdown sprint and the two-point conversion gave Glen Rose a three-point advantage at 22-19.
Curran Morrison got in on the fun when he scooped up a fumbled shotgun snap by Bell, leading to another scoring drive capped off by a 16-yard pass from Plaster to Brooks. The Tongate PAT gave the Tigers a 10-point edge at 29-19.
China Spring simply refused to die. Armstrong answered with another score, this of the three-yard variety, and the PAT was blocked again to make it 29-25 in favor of the home team.
The offenses continued to strike with Plaster poking his arms over the pile of linemen for a Tiger TD. Armstrong answered the ball for China Spring, racing in from 29-yards out. The two-point try made the score 36-33 Glen Rose.
Glen Rose was set to score again as Plaster broke off a 13-yard run, but as he was reaching for the end zone, the ball was knocked loose and into the waiting arms of Crow.
Armstrong and company responded with the go-ahead, eight-yard touchdown and PAT for a 40-36 lead. This was the final tally before the blown call gave them a chance to pad their lead at the end of the contest.
Plaster was the leading rusher for Glen Rose, racking up 138 yards on 16 carries while Evatt ran for 95 yards on 12 trips.
Taylor and Brooks each had over 100 yards receiving from Plaster, who was 22-41 for 308 yards, three scores and a pick.
The Tiger defense allowed a season-high 536 yards of offense.
Seth Mann and Noell led the defense with eight tackles each while Beto Hernandez tallied seven stops, two for a loss of yards.
The Tigers finish the regular season on the road in Hillsboro Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
If Glen Rose comes away with a win and Gatesville falls to China Spring, then the Tigers will face Wimberley in the bi-district round of the 3A Division II playoffs.
“(Wimberley) has a great tradition and one of the premiere running backs in 3A,” said Dunn. “Now, that’s if China Spring beats Gatesville. If Gatesville beats China Spring, then we’ll play Canyon Lake.”