EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
The Faith Academy of Marble Falls fans, braving the cold night, played George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” as the clock wound down Nov. 9 with the Flames poised to win their final regular season game and punch their ticket to the High Plains city on Nov. 17.
The Flames used a tough defense topped off by an offense that just wouldn’t stop to beat Round Rock Christian 76-64. The win earns Faith a 3-7 overall record and, more important, a 2-3 record in the Texas Association of Private and Parochial School’s six-man Division 1, District 2.
“The win means we’ll likely play Amarillo San Jacinto next Saturday in Amarillo,” said Faith head football coach Jeremy Wentrcek. “That’s who we’ll play if they won.”
And that’s just what Amarillo San Jacinto Christian did Nov. 9, beating Calvary Academy 76-28.
While the Flames had already secured a playoff berth, heading into the playoffs with a win meant a great deal to the team. But it was also the way Faith won that had Wentrcek smiling.
“We’ve always played four quarters, but we’ve had some lulls, especially on offense, in some of those games,” he said. “Tonight, we played four full quarters, and we didn’t have any of those lulls. The offense just kept fighting out there.”
Faith junior quarterback Travis Hughes turned in a strong performance, throwing four touchdown passes and getting four more with his feet. When it came to the passing game, Hughes varied his targets, throwing scoring balls to Ben Martin, Grayson Poage, Case Coleman, and Justin Mottle.
When the passing game struggled a bit during Friday night’s contest, the Flames’ running game came through.
“It was just a good, complete game for our offense,” Wentrcek said.
Defensively, the Flames gave up some scores, but they also came up with some key stops and, just as important, forced several turnovers.
In fact, Faith’s first touchdown came when Colby Offutt snatched a fumble and raced 60 yards for a Flames score. On the night, Faith would force six turnovers with five leading to points.
Offutt picked up a second turnover later in the game that eventually led to Hughes hitting Poage for a 28-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter for a 28-22 lead. That’s where the score remained at the half, but the Round Rock Christian Academy Crusaders fired right back in the third quarter, scoring two touchdowns for a 36-28 lead.
Faith tied it up, this time with Hughes hitting Martin for a 45-yard touchdown pass.
Where turnovers went in Faith’s favor, so did onside kicks. The Flames came up with several, including one after Martin’s touchdown reception. Faith took full advantage. Hughes capped off the following drive with a 14-yard touchdown run and a 42-36 Flames lead.
The Crusaders kept things interesting, jumping right back in the game on their next drive to make it a 44-42 game. But Faith’s offense kept plugging along, scoring two more touchdowns, including one set up by a Poage interception.
The Crusaders, however, just wouldn’t call it a night. Early in the fourth quarter, they added a touchdown and made it a 54-50 game.
But the Crusaders defense struggled to slow down Faith’s offense. The Flames scored back-to-back touchdowns with one set up by a fumble recovery. This time, Hughes sealed the deal with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Case Coleman.
With 2:09 left in the game, Faith took a 68-50 lead.
Despite the odds, the Crusaders battled back. Johnathan Hernandez returned a kickoff 45 yards for a touchdown, making it a 68-56 ballgame. But Faith put the game out of reach with one more touchdown, though Round Rock Christian would add one more score with five seconds left in the game.
“I’m so proud of these boys,” Wentrcek said as the win sank in.
He noted the difference between the Flames at the start of the season and the end of the regular season as they begin their trip into the playoffs.
“They’ve truly become a six-man football team,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how much difference there is between eleven-man and six-man. It’s like two different games, kind of like going from football to basketball. But these boys have just hung in there, worked hard, and become a six-man team.”
As he met with the Flames after their victory over the Crusaders, Wentrcek told his players that, as they begin this journey into the postseason, they’re starting something new for themselves and Faith teams in the years to come.
“What we’re doing right now is starting a tradition of teams that play deep into November,” he told them. “That starts right now with all of you.”
Then the coach broke out into song: “Amarillo by Morning.”