By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
LINDALE — Just beat Whitehouse — unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Whitehouse — and take care of Jacksonville on the final night of the season, that’s all Corsicana has to do to have a chance at making the playoffs.
That uphill problem is what the Tigers are left staring at after losing a game they had to win on Friday night, falling to Lindale, 42-26, to give the Eagles (2-6, and 1-2 in District 16-4A) hope of reaching the playoffs.
That’s what Corsicana had coming into Eagles Stadium — hope. Even after a tough 1-5 start that included losses in their first two District 16-4A games, the Tigers knew that if they won two of the last three they could make the playoffs. But with state power Whitehouse in the middle of that three-game stretch, all logic pointed to Friday’s showdown with Lindale as the biggest game of the season.
Whether it was that wacky, almost bizarre onside kickoff return or that bitter fumble in the fourth quarter, this game was a nightmare unfolding a little at a time. Go figure, even on a night when Donavan Fields ran for 244 yards and Devontay Bell rushed for 242 and a pair of touchdowns, it just wasn’t enough.
There were just too many “I can’t believe that play” moments for the Tigers, who ran up and down the field all night and punted only once — it was a “I can’t believe that play” punt that traveled six yards.
They ripped through Lindale’s defense on their first two drives only to be held on downs at the 2-yard line and then again at the 20-yard line, and finished the night going 1 for 5 on fourth down make-or-break plays.
If that wasn’t enough to haunt them, the Tigers watched two of the strangest plays of the year kill their chances.
They never led and trailed 21-7 at halftime, thanks to the emergence of Lindale running back Aaron Jackson, who scored early and finished with 242 yards and three touchdowns, and QB David Slice, who didn’t start but tossed back-to-back TD passes to TJ Griffin, who hauled in a 21-yarder with 4:01 left in the half and then caught a 63-yard bomb with 55 seconds before halftime.
Corsicana’s lone TD in the first half came when Hector Calvillo made a bobbling “now I’ve got it, now I don’t — now I’ve got it again” catch on a 41-yard TD pass from Bell, who finished with 164 yards in the air.
Still, the Tigers opened the second half with another in-your-face drive — a 69-yard run-the-ball-at-will drive that ended with Bell scoring on a 1-yard run to close the gap to 21-14.
Lindale was hit with a personal foul penalty on Ryan Condley’s PAT and the Tigers got to kickoff near midfield. It was the perfect time for an onside kick and a momentum builder, but Condley’s kick bounced high in the air and Nathan Evans grabbed it at his 30, darted right and zipped by Corsicana all the way to the 12-yard line.
It was unbelievable, but before Corsicana could shake its head, Jackson had scored on an 8-yard run and it was 28-14. Bell opened the fourth quarter with a 16-yard TD run to close to 28-20, but after both teams were penalized on the PAT, a bad snap forced an errant pass and Lindale hung on to an eight-point lead, 28-20, on yet another “shake-your-head” play.
It was still 28-20 when Fields broke free for 35-yard touchdown run with 7:21 left in the game, but Lindale’s Stephen Clemmons came from behind and knocked the ball loose just as Fields was about to cross the goal line and the play that might have thrown the game into a 28-28 tie ended as a touchback with Lindale holding the ball and a 28-20 lead.
It was too bizarre — almost as bizarre as Evans’ crazy onside kick return. Nick Terry intercepted a pass at midfield on the next series, but the Tigers were held on downs when a fourth-down pass was dropped.
Lindale went to Jackson to kill the clock and put the game away and the junior running back who had never started got the job done. He not only ate up clock and yards, but scored his second TD of the night on a 5-yard run with 2:226 left, and after Bell brought the Tigers back with a 58-yard pass to Calvillo and a 5-yard TD toss to Danair Martin with 1:24 left, Jackson took off for a 48-yard TD run 10 seconds later, scoring at 1:14 to ice it.
It was one more “I can’t believe it moment” on a night filled with them.