After an Alamo Heights punt pushed Tivy back to their own 1 yardline, Antler quarterback Trapper Pannell set the tone for the long-standing rivalry match with a potentially record-setting 99-yard touchdown pass to veteran receiver Brooks McCoy on Tivy’s first snap of the game Friday night at Antler Stadium in District 14-5A action.
“I don’t know how it couldn’t be a record-setter,” Coach David Jones said. “What’s longer than 99 yards.”
Pannell would go on to complete 22 of 32 passes for 375 yards and five touchdowns to lead the Antlers to a commanding 56-14 win over the Mules and protect the team’s perfect district record as they work toward earning back-to-back titles.
“That (99-yard) touchdown pass gave us a lot of momentum to start the game and what better team to have a play like that against than Heights,” Pannell said. “This night was a quarterback’s dream. With the defense that they ran, our best match-ups were to throw the ball, so we did that all night.”
Tivy dominated on both sides of the ball with a solid effort by a defensive wall led by linebacker Cole Mixon and defensive lineman Gonzalo Hernandez and exceptional play from the secondary.
Tivy safety Jack Patterson picked off two of Heights quarterback Koby Love’s passes, one for a touchback on a would-be Mule touchdown and a second interception Patterson returned 36 yards for a defensive score.
“I was baiting him. As soon as he threw, I was five yards out and I just ran up, hit the route and caught it and ran it in,” Patterson said. “In the endzone, I just jumped up as high as I could, stretched out as far as I could and hoped to catch it and I did.”
Friday night’s grabs gives Patterson five interceptions on the season.
In addition to multiple pass deflections, Tivy cornerback Damien Hernandez recorded his second interception of the year against Heights, denying what looked to be an impressive drive by the Mules in the second quarter.
“They are a rival team and we were determined to beat them tonight,” Hernandez said. “They are a passing team and we have great defense. I was ready. Jack (Patterson) was ready. Race (Risinger) and Coleson (Abel) were ready. We were all ready for anything they were going to throw at us.”
Hernandez scored on an interception last week and said he is focused is ready to steal more opponent passes in the weeks to come.
After scoring on the opening play of Tivy's first possession, Pannell connected with Stoney Rhodes on a 3-yard touchdown pass. Jared Zirkel made good on his second point after attempt to give the Antlers a 14-0 lead with 2:21 left in the first quarter.
Alamo Heights answered 1:13 minutes into the second quarter when Aaron Proctor caught a 5-yard pass from Love. Phong Bien split the uprights for the Mules to narrow Tivy’s lead to 14-7.
It took the Antlers a little more than a minute to get those points back when Pannell carried the ball 46 yards on a keeper to score. Zirkel split the uprights and Tivy led 21-7 at the 9:26 mark.
Colten Drake hauled in 29-yard Pannell pass to score for the Antlers with 4:02 remaining in the second quarter and Zirkel continued kicking perfection to up Tivy’s lead 28-7.
Patterson’s interception and touchdown occurred :42 seconds later and with Zirkel’s extra point kick, Tivy ended the half with a 35-7 lead.
It took the Antlers a little longer in the third quarter to score when Pannell connected with Drake on a 22-yard pass at the 9:57 mark. Zirkel made good on the point after kick to extend Tivy’s lead to 42-7.
It was only :30 seconds later that Mixon and Race Risinger forced a Heights fumble that was recovered by Logan Green, setting up a 42-yard touchdown pass by Pannell to McCoy with 9:32 left in the third quarter.
McCoy scored again in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter on an 14-yard pass from Cole Miears, who rotated in at the quarterback position. With Zirkel’s extra point kick, the Antlers led 56-7.
The Mules managed a fourth quarter touchdown on a 2-yard run by senior Campbell Seay and Bien split the uprights for the last score of the game.
McCoy finished with nine catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns against Heights and leads the team on the season with 42 receptions for 742 yards and 11 touchdowns.
McCoy said he wasn’t sure if the 99-yard reception was a record-setter or not and credits Pannell for the throw.
“Trapper threw a good ball and made a good read on it,” McCoy said. “My corner was playing on the inside of me and I was able to make the catch.”
McCoy has made some miraculous catches that continue to impress his own teammates, who are often in awe on the sidelines.
“I just feel that if the ball is in the air, it should be my ball … I should make the catch,” McCoy said. “I will dive or stretch … do what I have to do to bring that ball in no matter where it is. Most of the time, though, my quarterbacks throw a good ball and that makes it easy. My goal is to make it to state (championship) and I believe we can get there.”
While Jones believes there is much work to be done, he said he is proud of his team.
“Our kids were focused tonight, came out and started the game well,” Jones said. “The 99-yarder off the bat didn’t hurt us any either, but we put pressure on them and forced turnovers and did a lot of great things.”
Jones said his team is highly-talented and are great teammates to each other, which is rare.
“We have a good group of kids that love each other and care about each other. They don’t really care who gets the credit or who gets the glory. They just want to win and as long as you have that and you keep that going, you have a special group,” Jones said. “And we have some kids that can play the game, for sure, but we’ve not had a night yet where we’ve done everything right, so we need to keep working at it.”
While Tivy managed to gain 563 total yards on the night, they were able to hold the Mules to only 247 yards.
Miears completed seven of 11 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown.
Drake recorded nine catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Rhodes hauled in five balls for 35 yards and one touchdown. Miears brought in four passes for 43 yards.
The Antlers recorded only 110 grounds yards against Heights with 55 of those yards coming from Pannell. Miears added 36 yards on five carries. Fisher Middleton carried for 12 yards on four attempts and J.D. Rodriguez went for seven yards on three carries.
The Antlers (5-0, 7-1) will host Lockhart (3-2, 5-3) Friday night at Antler Stadium at 7:30 p.m.