By BILL PETERSON
DEL VALLE — While it’s premature to discuss a changing of the guard, a different world in local high school football presented itself Friday night out by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
There was the home team, the Del Valle Cardinals, spilling onto the field, their fans cheering and feeling glorious. The Cardinals, who customarily find ways to miss the playoffs, already had clinched their fourth winning season in 26 years with a 7-1 record before Friday. Now, they were celebrating their first district championship since 1967.
Across the way stood the vanquished, the Hays Rebels, a stalwart in this area suddenly contemplating their first losing regular season since 1985. The Rebels were 3-6 after falling, 27-21, in overtime Friday night at Del Valle. The Rebels know they’re going to the playoffs, but needed this one to claim superiority among the District 17-4A lot and they couldn’t do it. So, Del Valle is the 4-0 in District 17-4A, while Hays dropped to 3-1 in the league. The Rebels can finish no better than 4-6 in the regular season.
A man asked Hays Rebels coach Bob Shelton, who has lived so well during the second half of his 46-year career, who hasn’t endured a losing season in 24 years, about facing one now.
“We’re not giving up,” Shelton said. “We got playoffs.”
The Rebels could still rescue a .500 season overall, but they would have to win next Friday night at Bob Shelton Stadium against Lehman, then they would have to win two playoff games.
The Rebels and Del Valle were two even football teams Friday night. They took turns scoring, but Del Valle scored first and last. Del Valle led, 14-7, at halftime, but the Rebels evened it quickly, when the home team fumbled the second-half kick. Hays recovered on the Del Valle 36. The Rebels ground out half of the needed yards in seven running plays, and Del Valle helped a lot with two defensive fouls worth the other 18 yards. Trace Gandy, the night’s Hays workhorse went the final yard to tie the game, 14-14.
But Del Valle had a way of staying ahead of this game. On its second play in response, quarterback Josef Cortez looked for Davion Johnson along the right sideline. Johnson caught the pass and outran the Hays defense to a 71-yard touchdown, giving the Cardinals a 21-14 lead.
Hays slugged right back, going 74 yards in 10 plays. They beat third down with an 11-yard pass from Sam Breyfogle to Gandy, putting the ball on the 50. The next time they faced third down, Breyfogle tossed an eight-yard touchdown to Kaimen Carpenter, bringing it to 28-28 before the end of the third quarter.
Once the fourth quarter began, Del Valle deteriorated offensively, but the Rebels couldn’t take advantage. The Rebels put the ball on Del Valle’s side of the field with their first try of the quarter, driving from their own 40 to the Del Valle 27 before Breyfogle’s run ended a yard short on fourth-and-two.
Del Valle took over and went backwards with a holding penalty and two illegal motion penalties, eventually punting from the ten on fourth and 27. The punt did not go far and Hays set up on the Del Valle 30 with five minutes left.
So, the game was there for the taking, at least by a field goal if the offense could take it halfway. But the Rebels couldn’t move. Gandy ran for a yard, then Breyfogle and Carpenter hooked up for a six-yard loss, then Breyfogle threw incomplete and it was time to punt with 3:30 left in the game.
“That was a killer that we weren’t able to move the ball there,” Shelton said.
Starting at its own 11, Del Valle couldn’t accomplish much, except for running the clock down to 42.7 seconds and accepting a generous roll on their punt, which stopped at the Hays 17. It was going to take a miracle for Hays to win this game in regulation. And it almost occurred.
On the final play of the fourth quarter, from the Hays 35, Gandy caught a short pass to the left, spun out of a tackler at midfield, and was suddenly ahead of the Del Valle defense. Gandy ran hard, and for a moment it appeared he could make it to the end zone. But the Del Valle defense caught him at the Del Valle 20, long after the clock read 0:00.
Hays took the ball first in overtime, and again Gandy ran hard. But he fumbled on the three to end a 12-yard carry, and Barrell Griffin recovered for Del Valle.
So, Cardinals just needed any kind of score. They lunged to the six when quarterback Matt Gonzalez ran 11 yards on first and 15, then slowed to a crawl, gaining only three yards on their next two carries.
The Del Valle first-year coach, Courtney Wash, elected to go for it because placement holder Cortez, who is the starting quarterback, had to leave the game with a third-quarter injury.
“It was a confidence factor there,” Wash said.
Gonzalez ratified Wash’s decision, gaining a yard to the one for first down. With that, it seemed only a matter of time. On second down, though, the Rebels appeared to have Jovanni Valdez trapped behind the five as he stretched to the left. But Valdez reached the corner and turned into the end zone, ending an historic win for Del Valle.
“It’s really a good feeling,” Wash said about the Cardinals achieving at a new level. “… It’s been a lot of hard work and working hard together.”
Hays won at the line of scrimmage, outgaining Del Valle with 353 total yards, compared with 293 for Del Valle. Gandy ran 29 times for 115 yards to lead the Hays offense.Email | Print