SAN ANTONIO – Tivy trailed Alamo Heights 10-9 heading into the halftime break and held the Mules scoreless for more than 22 minutes in the second half before ultimately falling by a score of 17-9 in both teams’ final District 15-5A Division II game Friday night at Jerry Comalander Stadium.
The loss effectively ended the Antler’s season as well as the team’s 23-year playoff appearance streak.
Antler coach David Jones acknowledged disappointment in the loss, while also commending his team’s effort.
“Our kids played hard. They never gave up. They never quit and I’m proud of their efforts,” Jones said. “We just couldn’t make the plays on offense. We couldn’t piece drives together on offense to get the first downs we needed.”
Jones, who completed his ninth season as head coach, is the second winningest coach in Tivy history with 71 career wins under his belt and has been blessed with experienced and seasoned quarterbacks from year to year, which resulted in high-scoring games driven by a productive offense.
In addition to unusual challenges to his season posed by COVID-19 restrictions, Jones began the 2020 campaign trying to fill key roles on his offense with first-time varsity players.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Layton made his varsity debut this season, showing great promise, talent and gumption.
“There was a lot of pressure put on Jake (Layton). Some of it, he handled well and some of it, he fell short,” Jones said. “It’s frustrating, but it’s hard for a sophomore quarterback to do everything we need him to do, but it’s not all on him. We had 10 other guys around him. We just fell short.”
On the night, Layton completed 10 of 18 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown and led the Antlers in rushing, going 54 yards on 20 carries, but added a couple of turnovers to the stat sheet as well.
Tivy’s defense stepped up multiple times against Alamo Heights, providing the stops needed, including the Mules’ first two possessions of the game.
Alamo Heights received the opening kickoff, only to go three-and-out on their first series, including a long ball deflection by Antler defensive back Coleson Abel to force a fourth down punt.
After picking off an Antler pass, the Mules were making their way to the end zone, only to be held to a field goal by the Tivy defense. Alamo Heights’ kicker Phong Bien split the uprights from 23 yards out to give the Mules a 3-0 lead with 5:04 remaining in the first quarter.
The Antlers responded with an 82-yard touchdown toss from Layton to Fisher Middleton one minute later. A bad snap stopped Zach Donaldson from earning the extra point and Tivy took the lead 6-3.
Alamo Heights pulled off a flea flicker play that began with a snap to quarterback James Sobey, who pitched the ball to Joe Ramirez, who then launched a rocket to Rett Anderson for an 85-yard touchdown pass. Phong made good on the extra point attempt to allow the Mules to regain a 10-6 lead at the 3:54 mark.
Donaldson booted an 18-yard field goal for the Antlers with 4:40 remaining in the second quarter, bringing the score to 10-9.
Huge defensive plays, including sacks by Hayden Poe, Travis Priddy and Micah Harrison, along with a final stop by Harrison at the end of the half kept the Antlers in the game.
The second half was a battle of defensive units as both teams struggled offensively for yardage. Tivy’s Jack Patterson recorded a key pass deflection and his fifth interception of the year in the end zone during the third quarter of play.
To begin the fourth quarter, Antler Ronald Hanneman deflected a Mule pass in the opening series, and Conner Scherer and Poe brought down Sobey behind the line of scrimmage to force a punt.
While the Antlers’ offense struggled for yardage, the Mules were held at bay as well until just under the two-minute mark.
With 1:45 remaining in the game, Sobey completed a 30-yard drive with a 13-yard rushing touchdown. Bien kicked the extra point, giving Heights a 17-9 lead, which held up down the stretch.
Sobey led the Mules to 393 total offensive yards, with 209 coming through the air. He completed 8 of 19 passes on the night.
At game’s end, playoff hopes were still alive, as a loss by Floresville would allow the Antlers to advance. By the time the buses arrived at Antler Stadium, the possibility for an extended season had disappeared with a 21-9 Floresville win over Medina Valley.
The 2020 season is now over. Much needed experience has been gained by some promising young players, but most of all, the Antlers continue to represent the community and their school well. As we look to next year, we remember the 36 seniors on this year’s roster. We thank you for all of the excitement and wins over the years. We are sad to see your season come to an end. You will be greatly missed.