DENTON - It's over.
Hal Wasson's first season with the Tigers and the long ride from a spring that began with more questions than players ended on a cool night 100 miles from Beaton Street in a 49-28 loss to Braswell in the bi-district round of the 5A playoffs.
Forget that score. The Tigers could-a, would-a, should-a won this game -- and that's a testament to just how far these kids have come.
But they didn't win it.
And that's a cold reminder of just how far they need to go.
It was the ending.
And the beginning.
Wasson is in this for the long run -- the one that skips by the bi-district round of the playoffs like it was a warmup to bigger things to come.
That's where Wasson wants to take this program -- to long and rewarding playoff runs, to Jerry's World, and celebrations and a sign at the edge of town that says Corsicana, home of the state champs.
It wasn't there on Friday night and it won't be there Saturday morning -- but it's coming. Anyone who has watched this team grow, and seen the progress the Tigers made this year knows that.
They were good enough to beat Braswell, a talented 9-2 team that hasn't lost in more than two months, but too many mistakes and too many costly penalties were too much to overcome.
Anthony Young ran all over Braswell, burning the Bengals for 195 yards, and Solomon James threw for 208 yards and a couple of touchdowns for an offense that produced 459 yards. But it wasn't enough to get the Tigers to next week's game.
The Tigers drove from their 3-yard-line to Braswell's 30 in the second quarter on a drive that ended with a bizarre interception, and they drove inside the Bengals 10-yard-line twice in the second half without scoring a point and also threw an interception from the 12 on their final drive of the night.
James threw four interceptions, including a pass that hit the back of a receiver's helmet, bounced up and landed in a Braswell defender's lap (that's bizarre and more), and his fourth pick of the night ended the Tigers' final comeback when Braswell returned the ball 101 yards for a touchdown.
The Tigers end the season at 7-4.
Braswell wasn't only as good as advertised, the Bengals were exactly what was advertised -- a big-play team that lives on the arm of quarterback Greyson Thompson, who had thrown for almost 2,800 yards and 30 touchdowns before Friday night.
He added 278 yards and five (that's right, five) touchdowns to his resume Friday with the help of some talented and athletic receivers, including Cam Smith, who caught seven passes for 108 yards and two TDs. And it was Smith who put the game away with an interception in the end zone and 101-yard return with 1:20 left in the game.
The Tigers were down 42-28 and driving. They reached the Bengal 12 and were a touchdown and an onside kick away from the comeback of the year (don't doubt it, the Tigers had already recovered one onside kick Friday) when Smith made the play that sent Braswell to next week's Area round game against No. 7 Red Oak at AT&T Stadium. Braswell beat Red Oak by two touchdowns earlier this year.
The Bengals won't be at home at Collins Stadium like they were Friday. That's what they won by being a No. 2 seed, and that 200-mile round trip for the Tigers is the price they paid for a nightmare night in Royse City that cost Corsicana the No. 2 seed and the right to play their first playoff game in Tiger Stadium (food for thought for the future).
It was a "I hit you-I hit you last" kind of game most of the night.
Thompson threw three touchdown passes in the first half, hitting Smith for 4-yarder that came after an interception gave the Bengals the ball at the Tiger 24, Jacob Hernandez for a 25-yarder and Smith for a 14-yarder with 3:44 left in the half to give Braswell a 21-14 lead at the break.
The Tigers offensive line pushed Braswell around all night, and Young knotted the score at 7-7 with a 39-yard TD run with 2:15 left in the first, and James gave the Tigers a 14-7 lead when he threw two touchdown passes to Drew Denbow.
That's right, just like in the North Forney game when Denbow made two TD catches (thanks to a very late penalty that wiped out the first one).
This time Denbow made a 9-yard catch in the corner of end zone, and celebrated in the end zone and then celebrated some more when he and his teammates reached the sideline.
Then the officials, who must have been on a tape-delay program, decided at some point during that play the Tigers were holding and took Denbow's TD away, and put the ball at the 19.
Wasson went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 19, and Denbow made a sensational play grabbing a pass that was hit by Braswell defender for the touchdown and the lead with 9:25 left in the half.
Damarius Daniels opened the second half with a brilliant kickoff return to the Braswell 30, but after the play was over the officials called a personal foul on the Tigers.
But instead of marking off 15 yards from the 30 back to the Braswell 45, the officials placed the ball at the Tiger 25. That's where the Tigers began a 75-yard drive that ended when Daniels broke free for a 16-yard TD run that made it 21-21.
Thompson's 6-yard TD pass to Jacob Hernandez gave Braswell a 28-21 lead, and then he came up with a huge play on the next series when on a fourth-and-19 from the Tiger 30, Thompson hit Cameron Lara with a screen pass that turned into a touchdown to lift Braswell to a 35-21 lead with 2:48 left in the third.
The Tigers answered by driving from their 26 to the Braswell 8, but a false start moved the ball back to the 13, where an incomplete pass on fourth-and-12 killed the drive with 36 seconds left in the third. It wasn't just the penalties that hurt the Tigers, it was the timely penalties that came at crucial points in the game that cost so much more than yards time and time again.
Thompson's 5-yard TD run with 8:22 left in the game gave Braswell a 42-21 lead, but the Tigers came right back and scored on a beautiful running catch by Savion Miller on a 24-yard TD reception to close to 42-28 with 6:58 left.
The Tigers recovered the onside kick and quickly drove to the Braswell 17 on a 30-yard pass from James to Denbow, who had three receptions for 57 yards and also played in the secondary.
The Tigers then moved to the 9 when Young caught an 8-yard pass. But the drive ended there on downs with 5:32 left when Young was tackled for a loss on fourth down.
The Tiger defense, which had a goal-line stand in the first quarter when Tyler Farmer sacked Thompson for a three-yard loss to the 4-yard line, came up with its fourth sack when Thompson fumbled the ball at his own 7, and Braswell punted from the end zone.
The Tigers took over at the Braswell 39 and on third-and-three James hit Qua Chambers,, who made a highlight film catch for a 23-yard gain to the 12. Then on third-and-10 James' pass sailed high and Smith went 101 yards.
It was over.
Braswell 49, Tigers 28
Tigers 7 7 7 7 -- 28
Braswell 7 14 14 14 -- 49
FD 19 19
Rushes-Yards 37-250 38-126
Passing 209 278
C-A-I 15-35-4 18-29-0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-yards 7-70 8-54
B: Cam Smith 4 pass from Greyson Thompson (Arturo Ramirez kick) 3:23
C: Anthony Young 39 run (Ethan Rodriguez kick) 2:15
C: Drew Denbow 19 pass from Solomon James (Rodriguez kick) 9:25
B: Jacob Hernandez 25 pass from Thompson (Ramirez kick) 7:48
B: Cam Smith 14 pass from Thompson (Ramirez kick) 3:44
C: Damarius Daniels 16 run (Rodriguez kick) 9:17
B: Hernandez 6 pass from Thompson (Ramirez kick) 6:34
B: Cameron Lara 30 pass from Thompson (Ramirez kick) 2:48
B: Thompson 5 run (Ramirez kick) 8:22
C: Savion Miller 24 pass (Rodriguez kick) 6:58
B: Cam Smith 101 interception return (Ramirez kick) 1:20
Rushing -- C: Anthony Young 26-195, Damarius Daniels 6-45, Lane Fuentes 1-6, Solomon James 3-2, Eric Dickson 1-1.
B: Cameron Lara 17-90, Jamerion Sanford 10-20, Ifesimi Yessuff 2-17, Greyson Thompson 7 (-4),
Passing -- C: Solomon James 15-35-4-2-209; B: Greyson Thompson 18-29-0-5-278.
Receiving -- C: Qua Chambers 4-67, Drew Denbow 3-57-1, Anthony Young 3-37, Savion Miller 2-32-1, Damarius Daniels 2-10, Lane Fuentes 1-6.
B: Cam Smith 7-108-2, Jacob Hernandez 7-106-2, Cameron Lara 1-30-1, Jaylon Banks 2-25, J'Kalon Carter 1-9.