By Raymond Linex II
Corsicana Daily Sun
ALEDO – Patrick Harvell doesn’t know how many kids he’ll have healthy Saturday morning. But he’ll need his trainer to do a yoeman’s effort.
The Eagles have another football game to play.
Mildred and Nocona went toe-to-toe, but the Eagles scored three of the game’s final four touchdowns after falling behind and limped out of Aledo with a 45-35 Region II-2A Division II championship.
The Eagles (12-1) were the walking wounded afterward, Harvell said.
“That was one helluva dog fight,” said Harvell, whose Eagles are in the Class 2A Division II semifinals for the second straight season. They will face Sonora, a 42-21 winner over Colorado City, at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Marble Falls, Harvell said.
“We’re beat up and bruised up,” he said, “but that’s what Texas high school playoff football is about. You’ve got to overcome adversity and overcome injuries.”
The Eagles faced their share of both.
Nocona (12-1), which had its best season in school history, came out of the gates and went 76 yards in 11 plays to take a 7-0 lead. It was the first time Mildred had trailed since a 70-22 loss Sept. 7 at Centerville.
Mildred wasted little time responded, scoring in two plays. Nic Shimonek, who threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns, hit Mikey Muncy for 51 yards on the Eagles’ first play. Draylon Sterling scored the first of two rushing touchdowns from 18 yards out on the next play.
Midway through the second, the Eagles took a 24-7 lead on a 38-yard Shimonek-to-Jonathan Harrison pass in which Harrison got behind the secondary. After averaging 351 yards on the ground and only 102 through the air in two playoff games, Mildred found the picking good through the passing game in the first 19 minutes.
Shimonek was 5 of 6 for 166 yards at that point.
“We noticed on film their two safeties were their leading tacklers,” Harvell said. “We knew they were aggressive on play action. The pass to Mikey and the pass to Jonathan were both off play-action. They bit, and we hit them over the top.”
The high-flying Eagles, averaging winning by 27 points in two playoff games, appeard to be on cruise control. They had a 38-yard Devin O’Sullivan field goal and a 53-yard Jeremy Ballard touchdown pass on a screen to make it 17-7.
But the 24-unanswered points was hardly and indication of how the night would go.
Bruising running back Tate Fenoglio capped a 74-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge right before the end of the half, and his two-point conversion run made it 24-15.
The third was almost a complete nightmare for Mildred. Nocona forced a punt, and the Indians reeled off two straight scores to go up 28-24.
“We had about an eight-minute stretch there where we lost our composure,” Harvell said. “We didn’t play well.”
The Eagles needed a big play to stop the bleeding, and they got. Sterling took the ensuing kickoff 12 yards to the Mildred 47, then the next play 53 yards to the end zone and Mildred seized the lead again, 31-28.
A Raleigh Seilheimer interception set up the next score, a 30-yard Ballard jaunt on third-and-6 to make it 38-35.
Nocona took advantage of a fourth down pass interference call in the end zone on Ballard, who had briefly snared his 12th interception of the year. Bryce Dingelr scored a play later to make it 38-35 with 6:26 left.
At that point, Nocona had run 77 plays to Mildred’s 30. But the Eagles answered with a 10-play, 57-yard drive. Ballard scored his third touchdown from three yards out on fourth-and-1 with 1:39 left.
Three plays later, Sterling nabbed his fourth interception of the season to seal it.
Mildred 45, Nocona 35
Mildred 10 14 7 14 — 45
Nocona 7 8 13 7 — 35
N — Edward Cardoza 11 pass from Hayden Hill (Raul Anaya kick), 7:21
M — Draylon Sterling 18 run (Devin O’Sullivan kick), 6:44
M — O’Sullivan kick 38 FG, 2:32
M — Jeremy Ballard 53 pass from Nic Shimonek (O’Sullivan kick), 11:13
M — Jonathan Harrison 38 pass from Shimonek (O’Sullivan kick), 5:07
N — Tate Fenoglio 1 run (Fenoglio run), :32
N — Bryce Dingler 14 pass from Hill (Anaya kick), 7:20
N — Hill 1 run (run fail), 1:53
M — Sterling 53 run (O’Sullivan kick), 1:39
M — Ballard 30 run (O’Sullivan kick), 11:51
N — Dingler 1 run (Anaya kick), 6:26
M — Ballard 3 run (O’Sullivan kick), 1:39
First downs 15 23
Rush-yards 29-151 63-293
Passing yards 208 97
C-A-I 8-13-0 7-16-2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2-1
Punts-avg. 1-33 2-39
Penalties-yards 10-79 13-100
Rushing — M: Draylon Sterling 13-96, Jeremy Ballard 4-32, Nic Shimonek 8-52, Team 4-(-29). N: Tate Fenoglio 30-149, Hayden Hill 20-69, Bryce Dingler 13-75.
Passing — M: Shimonek 8-13-0-208. N: Hill 7-16-2-97.
Receiving — M: Jase Butler 1-12, Raleigh Seilheimer 1-16, Mikey Muncy 2-69, Jonathan Harrison 1-38, Sterling 2-25, Ballard 1-53. N: Dingler 2-24, Edward Cardoza 2-39, Fenoglio 3-36.