PARIS — On the soggy moor that was North Lamar’s natural turf field on Friday, Melissa had little trouble in getting past the Panthers, 36-15. Field markings were barely visible after recent rains, but the Cards (7-3, 5-1) still found the end zone more than enough times to upend North Lamar and close out their season as the No. 2 seed from District 7-4A(I).
Melissa faces Wilmer-Hutchins (6-4, 4-2) in the bi-district playoff round at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Grapevine’s Mustang-Panther Stadium.
Cards running back Braedan Smith roamed the chilly sod at North Lamar for a game-high 217 yards on 15 carries, with a 90-yard touchdown scamper just before halftime. All told, Melissa recorded nearly 470 yards offense.
Cards starting quarterback — and Colorado commit — Brendon Lewis played only one half, throwing for 98 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Parker Taylor came on in the second half and connected on 5-of-11 throws for 103 yards with a TD and two picks.
The Panthers (1-9, 1-5) were held to 211 yards of total offense — all but five of it coming on the ground. Matthew Sandlin led North Lamar’s rushing effort with 163 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.
Melissa defensive coordinator Nathaniel Hemsley named linebacker Caden Hayes his Defensive Player of the Game. Hayes tallied 13 tackles, two fumble recoveries, three sacks and two tackles for a loss.
Said Cards head coach Matt Nally, “The biggest thing was we wanted to come out healthy, because the playoffs are about luck and depth. … We’ve been decimated by injuries - especially on the defensive side of the ball - all season.
“A lot of kids got a lot of playing time tonight, and not just on the offensive side of the ball. We brought up some JV kids and they got a lot of time playing on the defensive side of the ball. It’s fun to see those kids get in there and play and get some varsity experience.”
Nally said his team is playing physical ball in all three phases of the game, especially in these last two games against Sanger and North Lamar. “We don’t ever want to peak. I felt like in the past we’ve done that. We’ve peaked and kind of, ‘Hey, we’re really good.’ You get complacent and you don’t really get better. That was our biggest deal all season long: Keep climbing. Don’t peak. Get better.”
Melissa struck first with Lewis finding Chase Mapps for a 41-yard catch-and-run touchdown down the left sideline on the Cards’ fourth play from scrimmage. The score came one play after the ball was snapped high over Lewis’ head for a 15-yard loss.
North Lamar fumbled away its ensuing possession with Hayes pouncing on the loose ball at the Panthers’ 24. Melissa would get to the 4 but be turned away on fourth down from there.
After a North Lamar three-and-out, the Cards needed four plays to score - all rushes by Young. On first down from the 25, he burst 20 yards up the middle then logged a pair of 2-yard runs to the 1. Young’s TD dive from there made it 13-0 Melissa with 3:02 left in the first stanza.
The Panthers’ next punt was blocked by Melissa’s Ezra Monroe and traveled six yards. Taking over at the North Lamar 30, the Cards moved in for another score with Xylon Posey doing the honors from two yards out. The Panthers were flagged for two personal fouls on this drive that spilled into the second quarter.
Now down, 20-0, North Lamar had something going on its next possession after Sandlin got loose for 35 yards to the Cards’ 43. But two plays later, the Panthers’ coughed it up again and Hayes again fell on it, this time at the Cards’ 25.
North Lamar’s Andy Kirk ended Melissa’s next march with the first of his two interceptions on the night, but the Panthers were stopped on downs. The Cards’ ensuing drive stalled as well and North Lamar was in business with a short field from Melissa’s 25. From there, the Panthers got on the board with 3:52 left in the half on a 1-yard TD push by quarterback Kobey Emeyabbi.
With a 20-8 lead as time ran short before the break, Melissa was backed up to its 10-yard-line after two holding penalties. That’s when the Cards dialed up Smith, who took it off right tackle then outran Panther defenders down the right sideline for a touchdown. A 2-point conversion pass failed but Melissa was in control, 26-8, as the Cards headed into halftime.
With Taylor at quarterback, the Cards’ took the opening drive of the second half 43 yards to the North Lamar 7 where Grayson Hurst booted a 19-yard field goal. That 29-8 advantage would be the Cards’ largest of the contest.
Late in the third quarter, Sandlin posted a 46-yard touchdown run to draw the Panthers to within 29-15, but Melissa answered quickly. Taylor led hat six-play, 65-yard scoring march capped by his 31-yard toss to Colton Wittwer for the contest’s final TD.
A scoreless fourth-quarter followed as the Cards’ young players got in valuable reps.
Melissa 36, North Lamar 15
Melissa 13 13 10 0 - 36
N. Lamar 0 8 7 0 - 15
M - Chase Mapps 41 pass from Brendon Lewis (pass failed), 8:39
M – Ja’Bray Young 1 run (Luke Hansen kick), 3:02
M – Xylon Posey 2 run (Luke Hansen kick), 11:48
NL – Kobey Emeyabbi 1 run (Mason Stephens pass from Kobey Emeyabbi), 3:52
M – Braedan Smith 90 run (pass failed), 1:27
M – Grayson Hurst 19 FG, 9:16
NL – Matthew Sundlin (Yceilo Peralta kick), 2:42
M – Colton Withers 31 pass from Parker Taylor, 0:36
Stats Melissa N. Lamar
First downs 20 11
Rushes-yards 38-266 45-206
Passing yards 201 5
C-A-I 11-23-3 1-2-0
Punts-average 0-0 4-20.7
Penalties-yards 9-95 6-67
Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-2
Rushing - Melissa: Braedan Smith 15-217, Ja’Bray Young 5-34, Xylon Posey 10-13, Ashton Mitchell-Johnson 2-10, Parker Taylor 3-1, Brendon Lewis 3-(-9). N. Lamar: Matthew Sandlin 11-163, Cameron Clark 9-26, Seth Parker 4-16, Andy Kirk 2-4, Kobey Emeyabbi 19-(-3).
Passing - Melissa: Brendon Lewis 6-12-1-98, Parker Taylor 5-11-2-103. N. Lamar: Kobey Emeyabbi 1-2-0-5.
Receiving – Melissa: Chase Mapps 3-70, Colton Wittwer 3-49, Braedan Smith 1-30, Jack Richardson 1-24, Antonio Robinson 1-21, Tyler Burton 1-4, Antjuan Turner 1-3. N. Lamar: Seth Parker 1-5.