MARBLE FALLS — Our Lady of the Hills shook off some second-half sloppiness to hold on for a 40-36 second-round TAPPS Division II six-man playoff win against Temple Holy Trinity Saturday afternoon.
OLH senior Kolten Kitchens completed 15 of 23 passes for 195 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another 146 yards and one score, and the Hawks improved to 8-0 on the year to remain as one of only eight teams still standing in their division, but the Celtics (4-5) made them work an entire game for only the second time this season.
“I would like to think this performance is a result of the rust of not having played the previous two weeks, but we survived and advanced,” OLH coach Chris Ramirez said. “We found a way to get the stops when we needed them, but hats off to Temple for their effort as well.”
The Hawks were not on the field due to COVID protocols that cancelled their final district game and then resulted in a forfeit win in the first round of the playoffs.
“We were peaking when we quarantined, and our lack of conditioning showed, plus our open field tackling needs some work. But getting back on the field today and playing an entire game did help us for the challenges down the line,” Ramirez said.
OLH jumped in front 16-0 in the first quarter and held on to that lead at halftime. Kitchens ran 27 yards for the Hawk’s first touchdown and threw a 2-yard pass to Luke Martinez for the second score. Stephen Grocki converted both 2-point kicks and was 5-for-5 on PATs in the game.
OLH’s defense made its presence known in the first half by stopping the Celtics twice inside the red zone. One of those efforts happened when Matthew Romero recorded a sack and fumble recovery at the OLH 16-yard line in the first quarter. Kitchens broke up third and fourth-down passes at OLH’s eight-yard line in the second quarter to help preserve the shutout at intermission.
Kitchens finished with 16 tackles to his defensive resume, while Romero wound up with three.
“We played some great defense in the first half and never gave up,” Ramirez said.
After halting the Celtics’ initial drive of the third quarter at Temple Holy Trinity’s 20-yard line, Kitchens’ completions to Davis Clifton and Julian Garza resulted in a two-play drive that Garza capped with an end zone reception with 8:07 left in the quarter. Grocki’s PAT upped OLH’s edge to 24-0.
Garza ended with four catches for 74 yards and one score.
The Celtics showed little give up either and converted back-to-back interceptions of Kitchens into 14 third-quarter points to tighten the contest. The first pick came with 4:31 left in the quarter and led to a Celtics score at the 3:57 mark, and another interception one play later resulted in another Holy Trinity scoring drive. The Celtics misfired on one of the PAT kicks, but still cut OLH’s lead to 24-14 heading into the fourth quarter.
The final 10 minutes of action began with Kitchens and Stefan Sirianni hooking up for seven yards and a score at the 9:54 mark. Grocki’s fourth extra-point boot moved the Hawks back in front by 18 points at 32-14.
Sirianni finished the game snagging four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Temple Holy Trinity scored again on a four-play, 50-yard drive, then added the 2-point kick to trail 32-22 with 8:41 left in the game.
Kitchens shook off his two earlier interceptions with completions to Matthew Cummings and Clifton before hitting Martinez with a 19-yard touchdown pass that, along with Grocki’s PAT kick, put OLH ahead 40-22 with 7:51 remaining.
Cummings had two catches for 29 yards, plus seven tackles and an interception on defense. Clifton made four tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
A lack of gas in their tanks did appear to take a toll on the Hawks down the stretch, and Holy Trinity rallied for a pair of late scores, one coming with 5:42 left and the second with 33 seconds remaining on the game clock. Only one of the PAT kicks was good. The Celtics missed two point-afters on the night, which negated four points for the team from Bell County.
OLH now faces off against Bryan Allen Academy on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. on the field of San Marcos Academy. The Rams (5-3) defeated McKinney Cornerstone Christian 57-12 to advance.