ANNA – Whitesboro safety Weston Hickman and a host of Bearcats met Anna quarterback Keelan Crosby inches shy of the goal line in overtime on Friday to preserve Whitesboro’s 7-6 season-opening win at Coyote Stadium. Moments earlier, on the Bearcats’ first possession of OT, Hickman had scored the game’s first points on a 1-yard touchdown run to the left side, followed by Scout Sanders’ extra-point kick.


Anna came back with runs of 5 and 7 yards from Abner Dubar and a 7-yard scamper from Crosby to face third down-and-3 from the Bearcats’ 6. Crosby proceeded to take it right up the middle for a touchdown and the Coyotes had a decision to make.


They went for the win.


“If I had the choice again, I’d go for it again there at the end and win the ballgame,” Anna head coach Jason Heath said. “I asked [my team], ‘Do y’all want to go win the ballgame?’ They all said yes and I believed that we would, the way we were moving the ball right there. But that was my call, so if anybody is pointing the finger, that’s me on that whole deal. I felt good about our chances there.”


Whitesboro head coach Eddie Gill said the 2-point try surprised him a little. “I thought they might kick it, but I understand this early in the season you kind of just say, ‘OK, well let’s see what we have.’ I was glad they went for it … just to see what our kids would do, how they would react. We made a play, I think for the first time in that little drive — because they had kind of lined up and ran right over us there.”


Anna managed 207 yards of offense this night with 180 of it coming on the ground. Crosby, who shared time at quarterback with starter Fernando Rodriguez, led Coyote rushers with 73 yards on 14 carries. Whitesboro was held to 177 total yards with Hickman collecting a team-high 55 rushing yards on nine attempts. Hickman was also on the receiving end of the game’s longest pass play, a 27-yarder from Sanders in the third quarter.


“Defensively,” Heath said, “we did a good job of controlling what they were doing. They came out in the second half and showed us something they had never done before, [the bone offense]. Our kids did a pretty good job of adjusting to it.… Offensively, we were right on the verge of making big plays. We controlled the ball, we moved the ball. We couldn’t put it in the end zone, for a lot of different reasons. We didn’t have that many penalties but blown assignments, stuff like that, and blocking-wise — we’ve got to bet better.”


For an improbable scoreless four quarters, the teams traded blows with neither gaining the upper hand for long. Anna’s two promising first-half drives stalled on fourth-down tries from Whitesboro’s 24- and 11-yard lines.


On the first, a 12-play drive on the Coyotes’ first possession, Anna converted two third-and-four situations on runs by Josh Abara and Dubar. Rodriguez also connected on short passes to Noah Palshaw and Emmonte Davis before being stopped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-four from the Bearcat 24.


Anna marched 74 yards in 15 plays on its next possession, a drive highlighted by a 13-yard burst from fullback Bubba Jones and Dubar’s 12-yard dash to the Bearcat 17. Two more Dubar efforts moved the ball to the 12 where, on fourth-and-5, Rodriguez’ pass fell incomplete.


To open their second half, the Coyotes moved to Whitesboro’s 38, but Crosby’s pass attempt on fourth-and-3 didn’t find its mark. Crosby later got loose for runs of 15 and 28 yards but each time a next-play false start penalty blunted Anna’s push.


Whitesboro’s best scoring chance in regulation ended with a fumble at Anna’s 11-yard-line in the second quarter, a ball pounced on by Coyote defensive lineman Blake Tredway. The Bearcats also threatened to score in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, moving to Anna’s 20-yard-line in 14 plays - a drive aided by a 15-yard face mask penalty. On the final play of regulation, Coyote linebacker Tre Cook stopped Whitesboro’s Nolan Firth after a short reception in the left flat. On the play, Cook grabbed a handful of jersey and wouldn’t let go, finally riding Firth out of bounds.


“It’s never a one-sided game when we play Anna,” Gill said. “One of my coaches was telling me, if I have it right, the last six times we’ve played the grand point-total difference is 10 points. … It was a good physical game. It gets ugly sometimes, the first game of the year, but I was proud of the kids for holding on with the win.”