It ended on a cold, rainy, miserable night that was full of hope and promise that didn’t die until the final minutes. It ended Friday at Coppell, this incredible, magical run by the Blooming Grove kids who never quit.
It ended, but the memory of this 2013 Lions team will live for a long time. These kids deserve that and more, and Friday night’s 35-21 loss to Leonard in the Region II-2A DII area game of the state playoffs won’t stop folks from talking about the run these kids made and their dramatic win against Jacksboro a week ago -- the first playoff victory at Blooming Grove in 36 years.
It looked like the Lions were headed to the next round of the playoffs when they stormed out of the halftime locker room and -- after trailing 14-7 on a bizarre, fluke play -- took over the game with two shove-it-down-your-throat drives that defined the character and courage of this team that entered the playoffs two weeks ago as underdogs and made a name for themselves in the postseason.
Travis Whiteside led the charge, gaining 102 yards in those two scoring drives. The first went 64 yards in 10 plays and ended with a Tyler Ellis 10-yard TD pass to Dalton Blake, who made a splendid catch on a crossing route into the end zone.
Then the Lions held a talented Leonard team on a three-and-out, and drove 80 yards in eight plays, including a huge 41-yard romp by Whiteside to the 9-yard-line. They scored when Tyler Morris ran the final four yards. Suddenly, with 2:40 left in the third, Blooming Grove had grabbed the lead and momentum with a 21-14 edge.
But in the end, it was just too much Titus in the second half -- as in Solomon Titus, who broke two huge plays to lead Leonard’s comeback, including a wild, zig-zag run that went for 36 yards and covered about 70 as he ran from one side of the field to the other, reversing his direction and the momentum of the game late in the third quarter with a 36-yard TD run that knotted the score at 21-21.
Titus rushed for 103 of his 171 yards in the second half that ended Blooming Grove’s remarkable season.
The Lions just couldn’t get a break in the second half and Leonard turned an interception into a short 39-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard TD run by Titus to take a 28-21 lead with 8:54 left in the game. The Tigers (9-3) scored on their next possession when quarterback Justin Bennett raced in on a 17-yard run to give Leonard a 35-21 lead with 5:57 left. His TD was set up by a 20-yard run by Titus.
That’s how it ended.
It was a long night for the Lions (7-5) who came in on the heels of a dramatic 38-35 win against Jacksboro on Ellis’ career-long 48-yard field goal with 0:07 on the clock.
But Leonard jumped out early. Titus, who had rushed for more than 1,700 yards this season, busted free on the fourth play of the game for a 57-yard TD to lift Leonard to a 7-0 lead with 10:10 left in the first.
After that play, BG’s defense held Leonard to just 46 yards for the rest of the half, and only 12 yards passing -- but the 12-yard pass was a heartbreaker.
Blooming Grove answered with the help of an Ellis 50-yard punt and a defense that simply wouldn’t budge. Ellis, fresh from his 48-yard game winning field last week, nailed a 50-yard punt that died at the Leonard 1-yard line, and the Lions stopped Leonard right there, forcing a fourth-and-10 punt from the 1. Ty McKinney had to punt from deep in the end zone and didn’t get much of a kick.
The Lions took over after a 16-yard punt at the 17, and went to Brandon Hays, who had a 12-yard gain to the 5, and then scored on a 5-yard run with 1:40 left in the quarter.
The Lions lost two fumbles in the second quarter and the second one was costly. Leonard recovered the fumbled punt at the Blooming Grove 15. Once again the Lions defense held, but on a third-and-7 play from the 12 Bennett threw a pass to Colson Coheley. Blooming Grove’s Brody Owens was there for the interception, but the ball skipped in and out of his hands, and right to Coheley for the touchdown and the lead.
It was a night full of bad breaks, tough penalties and turnovers.
Whiteside finished the night with 144 yards on 19 carries and Morris finished the night with 97 yards on 22 carries, but in the end, the Lions had trouble playing catch-up through swirling rain and wind and came up a little shot.
But Blooming Grove fans won’t remember this game as much as they will the way the Lions got here, with heart and courage and a history making win in the playoffs.
This team deserves to be remembered just that way.
Even on a cold, rainy, miserable night.
Leonard 35, Blooming Grove 21
Leonard 7 7 7 14 —35
Bl. Grove 7 0 14 0 — 21
L — Solomon Titus 57 run (Ty McKinney kick), 10:10
BG — Brandon Hays 5 run (Tyler Ellis kick), 1:40
L — Colson Coheley 12 pass from Justin Bennett (McKinney kick), 0:47
BG — Dalton Blake 10 pass from Tyler Ellis (Ellis kick), 8:08
BG: Tyler Morris 4 run (Ellis kick), 2:40
L —Titus 36 run (McKinney kick), 2:40
L — Titus 1 run (McKinney kick), 8:54
L: Bennett 17 run (McKinney kick), 5:57
First Downs 13 16
Rush-yards 40-266 52-272
Passing-yards 38 17
C-A-I 3-7-0 2-9-1
Fumbles-lost 2-0 4-2
Punts-avg. 4-28 3-48
Penalties 6-50 9-105
Rushing — BG: Travis Morris 23-97, Travis Whiteside 19-144, Tyler Ellis 7-13, Brandon Hays 5-18. L: Solomon Titus 20-171, Justin Bennett 14-80, Dylan Monck 5-11.
Passing — BG: Ellis 2--9-1 17, L: Bennett: 3-7-38.
Receiving — BG: Dalton Blake 1-10, Hays 1-7. L: Monck 1-20, Coheley 1-12, Titus 1-6.