The Amarillo High Sandies led only once Friday night in their biggest game of the season so far. It was more than enough.
In a back-and-forth game between two teams hoping to make a major impact in the District 2-5A Division one playoff picture when all is said and done, it came down to the very end between Amarillo High and Lubbock Coronado at Dick Bivins Stadium. And the Sandies just happened to get the last big break.
Amarillo High took advantage of a fumble in the last two minutes deep in Coronado territory and moved into position for a game-winning field goal. A.J. Villar spun a 36-yarder through the uprights as time expired, giving the Sandies a 31-28 victory and an unbeaten district record.
The Sandies (4-2, 2-0 in district) are now in a good position with four more district games remaining. This win could end up being a signature victory for them.
"It's unbelievable," AHS coach Chad Dunnam said. "It was a tremendous effort by our kids and our coaches. I knew that we were facing a good team and it was hard to stop them and our offense had to cover for us a lot tonight."
Yet, it was the defense which came up big when it counted.
The game was tied 28-28 when Coronado (3-4, 1-2) took over deep in its own end with five minutes left in the game. Coronado made a couple of first downs and had the ball at its own 34-yard line with under two minutes left.
Quarterback Sawyer Robertson ran for a 5-yard gain, but in the open field, AHS linebacker Cole Boxwell stripped him of the ball, and safety Trey Thomas picked it up, setting the Sandies up and the Coronado 35.
"I had no idea it popped out but I looked up and saw the crowd going crazy," Boxwell said. "It was just a great game and I think it helps us so much for district."
Thomas was more interested in securing the ball than being a hero.
"I thought it would come down to something like that and I just wanted to get us into field goal range," Thomas said. "I had an opportunity to scoop and score but I just needed to play it safe. That made us 2-0 in district and could give us a homefield advantage for the first round."
On third-and-five from the Coronado 30, quarterback Will Maynard hit Davin Lemmons for a 7-yard gain and a first down, allowing the Sandies to think more seriously about a field goal. Three Blake Bedwell carries got the ball to the Coronado 19 with 2.6 seconds left and from there it was all up to Villar.
It was something he felt prepared to do.
"The coaches told me to get ready and I just started doing that on the sideline," Villar said. "(Coronado) kept trying to do things to make me nervous when I got out there but I got through it. I hit it good even thought it had some hang time. I knew it would go in."
It may not have been the prettiest field goal, but it nonetheless counted as it floated through the uprights and secured the win.
That was an appropriate ending considering the way the two teams counterpunched the whole way, answering each other by trading touchdown drives, especially in the first half.
Coronado's Jon Hernandez took the opening kickoff and returned it 93 yards to the Amarillo High 7-yard line. On the next play, Robertson hit Will Boyles on a scoring pass for a 7-0 lead.
Amarillo High could have fallen apart in the first quarter after committing turnovers on their first two possessions, but the Sandies held tough. They lost a fumble at their own 14, but their defense held and Coronado's Cooper Hamliton missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.
"I looked down there and it seemed like we were running out of toes to shoot off," Dunnam said. "The resilience of these kids is hard to put into words."
That seemed to inspire the Sandies offensively, as they went on an 80-yard, 14-play scoring drive. All but three of the plays were runs, but the payoff came on a pass, as Maynard hit Peyton Conner on a 26-yard scoring pass to tie it 7-7.
Coronado then answered back with an eight-play 75-yard scoring drive, ending with the first of two scoring passes from Robertson to Eli Martinez, this one from 3 yards. The pair later hooked up from 8 yards with 38 seconds left in the first half to make it 21-14 at halftime.
In between those two scores, the Sandies tied it on Bedwell's 1-yard scoring run. Bedwell finished with 155 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries and Maynard had his second straight 100-yard rushing game, piicing up 111 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
"This was type of game I thought it was going to be," said Coronado coach Seth Parr, a former Caprock coach. "Hats off to coach Dunnam and Amarillo High. They took away what we wanted to do on offense. We didn't make the play we needed to at the end of the game.:
Amarillo High 31, Lubbock Coronado 28
Coronado 7 14 7 0 — 28
Amarillo High 0 14 14 3 — 31
LC—Will Boyles 7 pass from Sawyer Robertson (Cooper Hamilton kick), 11:33
AHS—Peyton Conner 26 pass from Will Maynard (A.J. Villar kick), 11:20
LC—Eli Martinez 3 pass from Robertson (Hamilton kick), 8:39
AHS—Blake Bedwell 1 run (Villar kick), 5:11
LC—Martinez 8 pass from Robertson (Hamilton kick), 0:38
AHS—Maynard 3 run (Villar kick), 9:47
LC—Robertson 1 run (Hamilton kick), 3:33
AHS—Bedwell 10 run (Villar kick), 0:00
AHS—Villar FG 36, 0:00
Coronado Amarillo High
First downs 19 23
Rushing 119 277
Passing 237 160
Total yards 356 437
C-A-I 19-27-0 12-19-1
Punts-Avg. 3-36.0 2-41.5
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-yards 4-36 4-34
RUSHING—Coronado: Kaleb Manuel 18-65, Robertson 10-39, Neal High 3-13, Charlie Robinson 1-2. Amarillo High: Bedwell 28-155, Maynard 16-111, Taevon Hood 5-11.
PASSING—Coronado: Robertson 19-27-0-237. Amarillo High: Maynard 12-19-1-160.
RECEIVING—Coronado: Boyles 2-7, Martinez 7-108, Jon Hernandez 10-122. Amarillo High: Davin Lemmons 3-24, Spencer Thurman 5-64, Conner 1-26, Bryson Slaughter 2-25, Braylon Milligan 1-21.