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A big win for Melissa Cardinals as Anna Coyotes continue to be underdogs

Rick Bailey,
The Anna-Melissa Tribune
Anna-Melissa Tribune

MELISSA - The number six preseason-ranked Celina Bobcats ran into a buzz saw Aug. 28 as the Melissa Cardinals visited Bobcat Stadium.

The Cardinals took home a 32-20 win in the season opener over the highly touted Bobcats.

Melissa’s head coach Matt Nally is ready to roll into Week Two with his crew.

Melissa is focusing its efforts this week on the number seven preseason-ranked Sunnyvale Raiders.

The Raiders were first week victims of Waco Connally and their speedy sophomore sensation, Tre Wisner, who tallied four touchdowns in the 42-26 contest.

Week Two looks to be another great week in Northeast Texas high school football. The Raiders are 12-point favorites for Friday night’s contest in Melissa, but the Cardinals are confident and fully prepped for the challenge.

The Cardinals fought tooth and nail with the Bobcats from the very beginning, and the magic for the evening was in the big play. Melissa scored five touchdowns and all of them were from 20 yards or more.

The Cardinals opened up the evening with a scoring play at the 9:40 mark in the opening quarter as Ryan Johnson found Antonio Robinson for a 21-yard strike. Celina answered with a field goal by Isaiah Martinez, but Melissa answered back with a 28-yard touchdown run at the three-minute mark in the first quarter on another big play by Ashton Mitchell-Johnson.

Celina answered the bell in the second quarter with 10 unanswered points coming off the toe and the feet of Martinez, who had a 22-yard field goal along with a one-yard run for a touchdown, and he added the extra point after. The Cardinals and the Bobcats were knotted up at the half 13-13.

Both teams fought tough during the third quarter with no scores until Carlos Branch made his only catch of the night with a 75-yard touchdown from Sam Fennegan. Going into the final quarter, the Cardinals held a 19-13 lead.

Celina finally enjoyed a momentous strike of its own, with 8:20 remaining in the fourth quarter when senior Reagan Davenport found sophomore Trae Hollins on a short pass that turned into a 51-yard touchdown reception and a 20-19 Celina lead.

It took Melissa less than three minutes to strike back, when Fennegan found Jack Richardson for his lone reception of the night - a 32-yard touchdown.

After the Bobcats made one last attempt to regain the lead with a long drive that ended with a sack of the quarterback, the Cardinals were in the driver’s seat with a 25-20 lead and less than two minutes left. Melissa then struck the final blow one play after the drive ended with a 60-yard touchdown run and a successful PAT that put the final score at 32-20.

Nally noted the performance of Carlos Branch, who had an interception with a 75-yard return to go with his 75-yard touchdown reception. Fennegan tossed for 219 yards passing and two touchdowns. Williams also ended the night with 122 yards on seven carries with one touchdown.

Melissa returns to the gridiron Friday night to face the Sunnyvale Raiders as a 12-point underdog despite the Raiders’ 46-26 loss to Waco Connally last week.

The Cardinals don’t mind playing the underdog role and are looking for an outcome similar to last week. The kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Melissa High School’s Cardinal stadium.

Meanwhile, the Anna High School Coyotes couldn’t get things going during the first half of their Aug. 28 game at Hillsboro and were having trouble containing the Eagles on both sides of the ball.

After falling behind 14-0 at halftime, Anna was beginning to turn things around. Jambres Dubar returned the second half kickoff 95 yards to get the Coyotes back in the game.

According to Anna head coach Jason Heath, the defense made some big stops in the second half of the game. At the end of the third quarter, the Coyotes found themselves down 21-14.

The Coyotes’ Brandon Adams picked off a Hillsboro pass and returned it for the 42-yard touchdown, but the play was negated with a roughing-the-passer call. Anna also put together a drive at the end of the game, but fumbled the ball on a third-down play to stop the momentum and clinch the game for Hillsboro.

Offensively, the Coyotes’ Davonte Davis rushed for 53 yards and QB Josh Packard completed six passes for 56 yards. Micah Ross was the leading receiver for Anna with five catches for 47 yards. Ross also returned two kickoffs for a total of 79 yards.

Heath commented, “I felt like our kids played hard but we made too many little mistakes. The good thing is that we had a lot of young kids that got some good varsity experience. CJ Miller (freshman) got a key INT late in the game. We are going through our growing pains, but we will get there.”

Anna travels to Wichita Falls Hirschi on Sept. 3 for the second week of the young season.

The Coyotes will once again be an underdog, but according to Heath, the team is working hard and making strides every day.

“We have to make a quick turnaround this week when we get to travel to Wichita Falls on a Thursday,” he said. “They are a very talented team with several explosive players. We will have to play well and correct the little things that we did not do well this week.”

Hirschi dropped its season opener to a strong Midlothian Heritage team by a score of 42-14 and will be looking to bounce back.

Week One is in the books and there are nine more regular-season games to come. Both Melissa and Anna are looking for wins this week as underdogs.

Coaches Nally and Heath are looking for their young players to step up and improve after their initial efforts for the 2020 season.