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Houston edges Collierville late

Photo by Roger Cotton 
The Collierville Dragons took on local rival Houston High Friday night on the road in what turned into a game filled with runs up the middle and penalty flags littering the field. The Dragons struggled down the field in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, with a field goal putting them up by two points and just over a minute
remaining. Houston immediately marched down the field and showed excellent clock control by going out of bounds on every play. The Mustangs scored the go-ahead touchdown and gave the ball to the Dragons with only 22 seconds remaining. With the clock ticking down Collierville's last option was a hail Mary pass to the end zone. The ball came down in the hands of Houston as Mustang fans rushed the field to celebrate the victory. The final score was 21-17. PICTURED: Houston running back CJ Blackfan is brought down by Collierville junior Carson Rees. Blackfan had 153 yards on 36 carries and two touchdowns in the game.

By Bill Sorrell

Trashy v. Classy was a classic.

With 1:34 left to play, Collierville’s Dylan Scott kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Dragons a 17-15 lead but with intricate, sideline pass plays from Houston quarterback Garrett Bates to wide receiver Terrell Tatum, the Mustangs drove 75 yards for a memory of a lifetime.

Houston running back Carson Blackfan raced four yards to the goal line with 22 seconds left then walked into the end zone and did a gold-socks happy dance to lift Houston to a 21-17 victory on Friday in a game where the real winner was St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime feeling,” said Blackfan, a senior. “It’s the last time to ever be playing Collierville. That is probably the most memorable play of my high school career.”

Neither will Houston senior Hardy Anderton, “Watching C.J. walk into the end zone with 20 seconds left is a memory I will never forget.”

A senior, Bates did what he practices every Thursday, a two-minute drill. He hit Tatum for completions of seven yards, five yards and then an 11-yarder at the 50-yard line. On the next play Bates ran to Collierville’s 46-yard line.

Then in one of the biggest plays of the season, Bates threw a 39-yard pass to Tatum down the left side who was tackled at the seven. A face mask penalty on the Dragons got the Mustangs to the four and from there the game flipped.

“I can’t even explain how excited I was when I caught it. I knew that sealed the game for us. When the ball is in the air, it’s just me and the ball,” said Tatum.

Bates, who completed 9-of-16 passes for 95 yards, trusted his coaches.

“They made great play calls,” he said.

Houston coach Will Hudgens said, “I don’t think words can describe it. It was an unbelievable win.”

The Mustangs improved to 3-3 and 3-1 in Region 4-6A. They will play at Arlington (4-3, 1-3) this Friday.

Collierville, which fell to 1-6, 0-4 in region, was heartbroken.

“The loss was hard. It hurt because I will never get to redeem myself against them again,” said Collierville senior running back Peyton McCay.

When Scott nailed the field goal, it appeared the Dragons would win.

“He was pretty calm. He has been solid for three years here. I knew he would get in there and take care of business,” said Collierville Coach Mike O’Neill.

Then came Houston.

Photo by Roger Cotton The Collierville Dragons took on local rival Houston High Friday night on the road in what turned into a game filled with runs up the middle and penalty flags littering the field. The Dragons struggled down the field in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, with a field goal putting them up by two points and just over a minute remaining. Houston immediately marched down the field and showed excellent clock control by going out of bounds on every play. The Mustangs scored the go-ahead touchdown and gave the ball to the Dragons with only 22 seconds remaining. With the clock ticking down Collierville's last option was a hail Mary pass to the end zone. The ball came down in the hands of Houston as Mustang fans rushed the field to celebrate the victory. The final score was 21-17. PICTURED: Houston running back CJ Blackfan is brought down by Collierville junior Carson Rees. Blackfan had 153 yards on 36 carries and two touchdowns in the game.

Photo by Roger Cotton
The Collierville Dragons took on local rival Houston High Friday night on the road in what turned into a game filled with runs up the middle and penalty flags littering the field. The Dragons struggled down the field in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, with a field goal putting them up by two points and just over a minute
remaining. Houston immediately marched down the field and showed excellent clock control by going out of bounds on every play. The Mustangs scored the go-ahead touchdown and gave the ball to the Dragons with only 22 seconds remaining. With the clock ticking down Collierville’s last option was a hail Mary pass to the end zone. The ball came down in the hands of Houston as Mustang fans rushed the field to celebrate the victory. The final score was 21-17. PICTURED: Houston running back CJ Blackfan is brought down by Collierville junior Carson Rees. Blackfan had 153 yards on 36 carries and two touchdowns in the game.

“We were playing a cat-and-mouse game,” said O’Neill. “We were in zone coverage then we were in man. They caught us in man.

“I can’t fault our guys,” he continued. “They fought hard. We could have easily won the game. We have had a lot of those this year. We have come up on the short side of things. We have got to keep battling.”

After the game, O’Neill told his team they have a choice to make.

“We can cash it in for the season and get ready for basketball or we can get prepared for our next game. We have got a chance to put a run together and keep fighting that is what we are going to do.”

The Dragons host another rival, Germantown (2-5, 1-3) this Friday.

Collierville defensive lineman Devan Reynolds said the Dragons will be ready. After the Houston loss Reynolds, a senior, said, “It’s tough. We came out and were doing our jobs and fell short. We will come back and get ready for Germantown.”

The Mustangs and Dragons are archrivals and have history.

Houston is situated 200 yards from the Collierville city limits.

“We had a bunch of Collierville kids going to Houston and since they redrew the district, now they are coming back to our place,” said O’Neill. “They run in the same circles. They play against each other in other sports.”

Ever since Blackfan was a kid, Houston v. Collierville has been the big game.

“It means a lot to us,” he said.

Hudgens said, “This is what high school football is all about.”

Students have staged up the game through their Trashy v. Classy talk. Collierville students dressed in camouflage, some with orange hunting vests. Houston students wore suits, ties and dresses.

“The kids came up with that. They love it,” said Hudgens.

Houston’s team was not the only Mustang on the field. A pink Ford Mustang convertible was on the track publicizing the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure for breast cancer.

The race is Oct. 29 at AutoZone Park.

The game was more than about football. The Student Government Associations of both schools had challenged each other to raise money for St. Jude.

Houston’s coaching staff wore black T-shirts with the words “Tackling Cancer,” the Bible verse Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”) and “Team Griffin” underneath a football.

The reference was to Griffin Gould, a student at Farmington Elementary School who has leukemia.

His brother plays on Houston’s middle school football team.

“He (Griffin) is somebody who is special to us, who is close to us,” said Hudgens. “There are five students in the Germantown Municipal School district that are patients at St. Jude or were at one point.”

The back of the shirt read “We Got Your Back.”

Houston’s football team wore gold socks to represent childhood cancer. Houston cheerleaders had gold pom-poms. A member of the pom squad, Allie Allen, has been battling brain cancer for five years said Blackfan.

“We are wearing gold to support Allie. She is battling her heart out and we want to support her in every way we can.”

During the week leading up to the game, both schools held fund raisers for St. Jude. More than $7,000 was raised in two minutes said Hudgens.

“It puts into perspective for you. At the end of the day it’s a great rivalry. We will treat it as such but when this is over we will all shake hands and remember the important things in life.”

After the song “The Final Countdown” had been played in the second quarter, Houston SGA president Olivia Brommer at halftime gave the total of how much had been raised for St. Jude by both schools: $21,100. That shows what can happen “when rivals get it right” she said.

“The beauty of it, we raised a lot of money for St. Jude. Football is just a game but that stuff will change lives,” said McCay, who has the tattoo of his favorite Bible verse Psalm 23:4 on his arm, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me.”

McCay’s 4-yard touchdown run had given the Dragons a 14-6 lead in the third quarter.

With his longest touchdown pass of the season, Collierville quarterback Matt Connors threw a 61-yard bomb to Justin Stonework with 4:21 left in the first quarter. Scott gave the Dragons a 7-0 lead.

“It gave us a lot of momentum and drove us forward there for awhile,” said Connors, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 189 yards.

A 55-yard, 14-play drive got the Mustangs their first touchdown. A 15-yard pass from Bates to J.C. Reynolds notched a first down at the Dragons 39-yard line.

Blackfan ran four yards before he was tackled by Devan Reynolds. Later Blackfan got a first down at the 18 and then Blackfan scored from the two. The PAT by Emmanuel Chi failed due to bad snap. The Mustangs trailed 7-6.

A 45-yard drive got the Dragons to the Houston 21-yard line on their next possession but Scott missed a 37-yard field goal with 4:14 left in the second quarter.

On the Mustangs’ possession, Blackfan had a 21-yard run to the Collierville 44-yard line.

With 19 seconds left, Bates’ pass to the end zone was intercepted by Virgil Pryor.

Trailing 14-6, Houston’s Jeramie Tate scored on a 54-yard run pulling the Mustangs within two points with 3:24 left in the third quarter. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Houston created a long two-point conversion that failed on an incomplete pass from Bates to Emmett Whitaker.

Houston took the lead with 7:50 left in the game. A 35-yard, 11-play drive set up a 37-yard field goal by Chi and the Mustangs were on top for the first time, 15-14. Tate’s 12-yard run fueled the drive.

The drama began to unfold. Connors led the Dragons down field, handing the ball to Mikho Grandison who had gains of almost 20-yards including a 9-yard pass reception.

But from his 39-yard line, Connors threw an interception in the end zone. Houston’s Tate intercepted at the 1-yard line with 3:56 left. The Dragons’ defense, led by Devan Reynolds’ tackle and a pass break-up by Pryor, stopped the drive.

Houston’s Patrick Gardner punted from his 1-yard line.

After the Dragons’ Cole Johnson caught the ball at the Houston 33, Connors got a first down at the 13. Grandison was stopped at the 12. Collierville was penalized for holding. Connors threw a 12-yard pass completion to Grandison that got to the 13. An incomplete pass, an off-sides penalty led to Scott’s 25-yard field goal.

Collierville led 17-15. The Mustangs were 83 yards away from a win. Blackfan ran for seven yards. Tatum’s 7-yard reception got a first down at the 34. Tatum caught a first down pass at the 39. Pryor broke up a pass for Collierville. Tatum then got a first down at the 50 before the play of the game in Bates’ eyes that put Houston in position to score.

“I knew after we made our field goal that the game wasn’t over. There was too much time left,” said Anderton.

Said Blackfan, who had a game-high 153 yards on 36 carries, “We just stuck to the game plan, which is pounding the football. I knew we had 1:30 left. I knew that we had a chance. I never count us out until the clock is :00. I will never forget this. We wanted revenge from last year.”

Collierville won 37-34 in 2015.

Bates said, “They were talking smack about us last year and our record and how they beat us. We knew that we out-played them the entire game.”

Houston had 327 yards total offense while Collierville had 261. Houston rushed for 232 yards on 51 carries while Collierville gained 72. Connors was the leading rusher with 42 yards. Houston completed 5-of-13 first downs while Collierville completed 1-of-7.

Stonework caught 101 of his team’s 169 yards passing. Alex Smith had 26 yards receiving for Collierville, Marcus Bersoza 17 yards, Grandison 45.

For Houston, Tatum had four catches for 62 yards, J.C. Reynolds two receptions for 24 yards, Monk Jordan one for 14.

Defensively, Collierville was led by Smith with five tackles, Carson Rees with nine, Johnson seven, Reynolds five, Tyler Garvey five, Bailey Howell nine, Elijah Holcomb five, Justin Ragin seven. Pryor and Ryan Stanfill had four each. Zack Mitchell had three, John Hassell, Josh Young, Skyler Crouch two each.

Pryor had three pass deflections, Garvey and Bailey Howell one each. Rees and Young had sacks.

Houston’s defense was led by Tatum’s four tackles, Shane Ptacek’s six, Ryan Bullock’s four, Jake Christoffersen’s four, two each by Will Gusmas and Jackson Little. Little and Bullock each had sacks. Little’s tackles accounted for 14 yards in lost yardage.

Blackfan said, “Our defense was lights out. They flew to the ball.”

O’Neill said, “I give credit to Houston. They had a good defensive game plan. It was a defensive battle throughout the game.”

Devan Reynolds said, “We had too many mental mistakes. We will come back ready to work.”

Grandison was “magic” said O’Neill.

“Offensively Miko is magic when he gets the football. There were times when he had two or three kids on him.”

Disappointed, Connors said, “It always sucks to lose a rival game, a district game, especially when I feel like we definitely should have won it again. We have got to start winning games. We are going to get some really bad playoff seeding. We have got to work.”

During the game-winning drive, Hudgens said, “We put the game in the hands of our quarterback. He made some throws and good decisions and protected the football. It’s exciting to watch those kids celebrate that win.”

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