Two of the best teams in the area went head to head on Aug. 29, at one of the nicest stadiums in the state when Celina and Melissa met in a rematch of last years thrilling opener.
This game might have been even more thrilling.
Melissa (0-1) came away with the win last year but was not able to repeat that performance despite coming from behind and taking the lead with less than two minutes to go in the game. A potential game-winning throw to the end zone fell incomplete, and it was the Bobcats that celebrated the 33-29 win.
There was a total of seven turnovers in the game which resulted in 37 points between the two teams. Celina (1-0) lost three fumbles on their side but was able to overcome that stat.
The scoring started slow, with just three points tallied in the opening quarter. Melissa’s Cade Cruce hit a 25-yard field goal to put the Cardinals on the board with just over five minutes to go in the first quarter.
Celina took the ball on their ensuing possession and drove inside the red zone before the Melissa defense forced a fumble and recovered the ball.
Taylor McGehee connected with Cameron Hunter for 39 yards and also had a 24 yard run and a 3-yard touchdown run to help drive the Cardinals down the field and take a 10-0 lead seconds into the second quarter.
McGehee, a transfer from Plano East High School, was impressive in his first game as a Cardinal. He finished the game with 346 yards in the air and an additional 81 yards on the ground — just four yards shy of Melissa’s rushing leader, Marcus Ellis, who finished the game with 85 yards and two touchdowns.
Celina’s defense jumpstarted their night when it intercepted a McGehee pass to give the offense the ball at the Melissa 7-yard line. The Bobcats scored on the next play to cut the lead to four points
Three drives later, Celina again took advantage of a McGehee turnover — a fumble at midfield — that turned into another touchdown three plays later to give the ‘Cats a 12-10 lead with less than 90 seconds to go in the half.
Celina was able to strip McGehee once more and recover the ball, and its offense again was able to score quickly. The Bobcats used a 50-yard run by Collin Schmid to go up 19-10 just before the half.
On their first possession of the second half, the Bobcats drove the ball 60 yards to score and increase their lead to 26-10. In a game that looked like Melissa was in control, the momentum had completely swung the other way.
But then it was Melissa’s turn to rally.
With just three-seconds left in the third quarter, McGehee capped off a 91-yard drive with a 3-yard pass to Jarren Alexander to get Melissa within 10 points.
The Cardinal defense then came up big with a fumble recovery on the Celina 9 yard line. Ellis punched it in from a yard out to get Melissa within three points.
With more than seven minutes to go in the game, Melissa took over on its own 5-yard line and put together a time clock-eating 95 yard scoring drive that gave the Cardinals the lead with less than two minutes to go in the game.
However, after Melissa took the lead Celina quarterback Nathan Elliott threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Cash Conder for the game- winning score with 41 seconds remaining on the clock.
Melissa was unable to regain the lead after driving the ball 57 yards in less than 40 seconds and getting the ball to the Celina 14 yard line with two seconds remaining. A pass from McGehee intended for Jackson Webb fell incomplete, and Celina eked out a win.
The Cardinals will look to even their record when they take on Van Alstyne (1-0) on Friday night at Cardinal Stadium. The Panthers are coming off a big win over Holliday in their opener.
Celina 0 19 7 7 - 33
Melissa 3 7 6 13- 29
MS — Cade Cruce 25-yard field goal
MS — Taylor McGehee 3-yard run (Cade Cruce kick)
CL — Jarren Alexander 7-yard run (kick failed)
CL — Cash Conder 6-yard run (pass failed)
CL — Collin Schmid 50-yard run (Jake Lykins kick)
CL — Jarren Alexander 3-yard pass from Nathan Elliott (Jake Lykins kick)
MS — Jace Whittington 21-yard pass from Taylor McGehee (pass failed)
MS — Marcus Ellis 1-yard run (Cade Cruce kick)
MS — Marcus Ellis 9-yard pass from Taylor McGehee (kick failed)
CL — Cash Conder 46-yard pass from Nathan Elliott