MELISSA — Coaches and their teams prepare for just about every imaginable possibility before taking the field. That was surely the case on Friday when Celina visited Melissa in a key District 7-4A(I) match-up. But sometimes life presents the unimaginable.
With Melissa clinging to a 22-17 late-fourth-quarter lead and the Bobcats about to punch in a go-ahead score, a game official collapsed to the ground and lay prone near the Cards’ 5-yard-line at the stadium’s north end. Parker Jack and Chance Mapps had just stuffed Celina power back Logan Point on 2nd-and-goal from the 3 — then everything stopped.
A large group of staff and medical personnel from both schools gathered around the fallen official as the packed stands fell silent. Sensing a serious situation, the teams were quickly called to their respective sidelines where they knelt in prayer. One official strode out beyond the home-side hash marks and knelt alone as his colleague received treatment.
After a time, word spread that the stricken official had been revived after a cardiac emergency. He was soon transported via stretcher to a waiting ambulance as fans stood as one and applauded.
All told, play was stopped for almost 30 minutes and - after brief warm-ups by both squads - the game continued with the four remaining officials. Word on Monday is that the revived official is still with us.
“In 30 years of coaching I’ve never seen anything like that,” Celina head coach Bill Elliott said. “It was pretty amazing.”
Melissa head coach Matt Nally called it “the most odd experience of my life.”
As play resumed, things got more surreal when Point was stonewalled again on third and fourth down by a host of Cards and Melissa quarterback Brendon Lewis took the next snap 96 yards for a touchdown. With 2:06 left to play the Cards led, 29-17, and sacks by Ja’Bray Young and Ashton-Mitchell Johnson would soon help end Celina’s final possession.
“In the past, what’s worked for us is putting the offense in Brendon’s hands when we play Celina,” Nally said. “He’s making checks from the line of scrimmage based off of what he sees. … We knew that was going to be there, and Brendon called it twice tonight.”
Said Elliott, “All night long, it was a battle. They’ve got a great football team, a lot of talent. That quarterback is unreal. He’s got so much ability he’s hard to handle. We were doing all we could to hang on to him and try to slow him up a little bit. … We’ve still got a lot of season to play and a long ways to go.”
Lewis rushed 12 times for 198 yards and three touchdowns and also tossed a TD pass to Antonio Robinson. Xylon Posey tallied 94 yards on 20 carries and Young averaged four yards per carry on 10 attempts. Young also threw the key block on Lewis’ clinching TD run.
All told, the Melissa’s offense outgained the Bobcats, 426 to 185.
Celina’s big weapon, Point, rumbled 31 times for 160 yards — but when they needed to most, the Cards shut him down.
Safety Damon Youngblood led Melissa with nine solo tackles and five assists, frequently coming up for crucial stops against the run. Linebacker Parker Jack posted eight solo tackles with 12 assists and a sack while defensive lineman Caleb Kroese also came up big with two sacks, four solo stops, two assists and tackle for a loss.
“There’s three phases of the game,” Nally said, “and you try to win two of the three to win the game. In the first half, it was offense and special teams that kind of had us winning. In the second half, special teams hurt us a little bit and the offense started hurting us because of holding penalty after holding penalty and false starts.
“I felt like our defense got better throughout the entire game and really answered the call. I mean, it’s first-and-goal [late] and they held them out.”
The Cards’ victory sets up a showdown with Argyle (7-0, 3-0) on Friday. The Eagles are ranked No. 1 in Class 4A Division I while Melissa (5-2, 3-0) comes in at No. 10. It will be the Cards’ first-ever appearance at Argyle’s Eagle Stadium, according to Melissa Cardinals Network radio host and revered football historian Trey Graham.
Melissa started fast in this one. The Bobcats fumbled the opening kickoff and David Patrick fell on it for the Cards at Celina’s 18. On Melissa’s first play from scrimmage, Lewis rolled right then cut it up to the end zone for a touchdown. Mitchell-Johnson ran in the 2-point conversion and before anyone’s popcorn was cold Melissa led, 8-0.
The ground-oriented Bobcats (5-3, 3-1) bounced back with a 79-yard, 13-play touchdown drive that showed Point’s potential to break one from anywhere. After runs of 17, 8 and 7 yards, Point scored from a yard out and Celina trailed, 8-7.
Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff 32 yards from the goal line and from there the Bobcats got a solid dose of Posey. Four-straight times – on the same play off left tackle – he carried the mail for 27 yards. Lewis then found Chase Mapps on consecutive pass plays for 8 and 9 yards before firing a 24-yard TD strike to Robinson in the end zone. Youngblood’s point-after kick made it 15-7 with 3:58 left in the first stanza.
After a quick-kickoff attempt, the Cards were called for illegal procedure and Celina set up at Melissa’s 37. Four scampers by Point got the Bobcats to the 11 but a chop-block call pushed them back to the 21. Quarterback Hunter Watson’s toss into the end zone on the next play was batted away by Kenady Markray before Watson came back with a 13-yard run to the Melissa 8. On third-and-7 from there, Kroese broke through to sack Watson for a six-yard loss and the Bobcats settled for 31-yard field goal.
To start the second half, Melissa marched 67 yards in nine plays for a touchdown with Lewis roaming right from four yards out for the score. On the drive, Posey carried four times for 21 yards, Young logged 22 yards on two carries and Robinson motored for 28 yards after a catch in the right flat.
With the Cards now up, 22-10, the teams traded punts - but momentum would shift quickly to Celina. On the Bobcats’ next punt, the ball took a hop past Melissa’s Colton Wittwer, just grazing him as it went by, and Celina recovered at the Cards’ 37. One play later, Point took it to the house down the left sideline and with 4:05 left the third, this was anybody’s game: Melissa 22, Celina 17.
Three holding penalties and a false start slowed the Cards’ next possession, though they got to Celina’s 30 where the drive ended in the early fourth quarter on a 4th-and-23 incompletion.
After another punt by each team, Celina started its final desperate drive from its own 24 with under seven minutes to go. Seven plays later the Bobcats had a 1st-and-goal at the Melissa 4 – and the rest is medical-slash-athletic history.
Celina 10 0 7 0 - 17
Melissa 15 0 7 7 - 29
M – Brendon Lewis 18 run (Ashton Mitchell-Johnson run), 11:42
C – Logan Point 1 run (Isaiah Martinez kick), 5:53
M – Antonio Robinson 24 pass from Brendon Lewis (Damon Youngblood kick), 3:38
C – Isaiah Martinez 31 FG, 0:57
M – Brendon Lewis 4 run (Damon Youngblood kick), 8:30
C – Logan Point 37 run (Isaiah Martinez kick, 4:05
M – Brendon Lewis 96 run (Damon Youngblood kick), 2:06
Stats Celina Melissa
First downs 17 21
Rushes-yards 49-162 42-331
Passing yards 23 95
C-A-I 2-9-0 7-14-1
Punts-average 4-40 4-29.3
Penalties-yards 7-76 11-79
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
Rushing – Celina: Logan Point 31-160, Luke Addy 2-3, Isaiah Martinez 1-2, Hunter Watson
15-(-3). Melissa: Brendon Lewis 12-198 , Xylon Posey 20-94, Ja’Bray Young 10-39.
Passing – Celina: Hunter Watson 2-9-0-23. Melissa: Brendon Lewis 7-14-1-95.
Receiving – Celina: Luke Addy 1-12, Grayson Wester 1-11. Melissa: Antonio Robinson 2-52, Chase Mapps 2-17, Tyler Burton 1-13, Ezra Monroe 1-13, Antjuan Turner 1-4.