Provided by Wayland Baptist University
As miserable as the Wayland Baptist football team felt a year ago after living through a rain-drenched 26-0 shutout loss to Texas College in Tyler, somehow Saturday felt even worse.
With Wayland clinging to a 29-28 lead at Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldog Stadium, the Steers converted a fourth-down-and 16 right before scoring on a 53-yard pass from a backup quarterback with 15 seconds left to deny the Pioneers their first victory of the season in their first-ever Central States Football League game.
Wayland coach Butch Henderson called it "a heartbreaker."
"If you're just a spectator watching the game it was probably pretty fun, but if you're the Wayland fans, coaches and kids, it's not that enjoyable," he said.
Texas College coach George Cumby knew the Steers got away with one.
"It's a miracle that we walked out of here with that win," Cumby said.
It's the second straight week Wayland came out on the short end of a wild game. Last week, the Pioneers rallied from way behind against Howard Payne only to lose, 38-34, on a fourth-quarter touchdown run that saw the ball carrier roll off a Wayland tackler without being downed.
This week, even after Texas College's disheartening game-winning score, Wayland wasn't done.
A kickoff that traveled just five yards and went out of bounds resulted in the Pioneers getting the ball at the Texas College 35-yard line with 15 seconds left. Two deep passes fell incomplete before on Wayland's final play quarterback Josh Houghtaling hit Chris Acosta on a screen pass. The Steers sniffed it out, however, and an errant lateral attempt by Acosta as he was being tackled ended with Texas College almost returning the fumble for another TD.
It was a fitting ending to a wild, wacky game.
When the Pioneers (0-4, 0-1 CSFL) took an 8-0 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Kendall Roberson and two-point conversion pass from PAT kick holder Ashton Tillman to Josh Bailey with two minutes left in the first quarter, it marked the largest lead by either team all afternoon.
Just two minutes after Texas College (1-3, 1-0) tied the score at 8 on a 9-yard pass from Vincent McNeill to Ja'Marius Allen, Roberson put Wayland back ahead with an 8-yard TD run. This time JT Torres kicked the PAT and Wayland was up, 15-8, with 10:18 left in the second quarter.
Texas College's Jamaal Johnson scored on a 39-yard run on the Steers' next possession, but the Pioneers went into halftime with a 15-14 lead because Texas College, without a solid kicker, failed to convert a PAT pass.
Wayland surrendered the lead for the first time when the Steers scored on a 35-yard pass from McNeill to Allen early in the third quarter. But it wasn't long before Roberson was in the endzone for the third time, this one after a 53-yard run which was followed by a PAT kick by Torres that tied it at 22-all midway through the third.
The Steers went ahead by six 1½ minutes into the fourth quarter on a 16-yard pass from backup quarterback Curtez Griffin, who replaced an injured McNeill, to Bradford Lewis. It appeared the failed two-point conversion after that TD would be the difference in the game when the Pioneers immediately answered with a 41-yard scoring pass from Houghtaling to Caleb Monroe. When Torres' third extra-point was good, the Pioneers were up, 29-28, with almost 13 minutes left in the game.
Wayland threatened to add to its lead, but a fumble after a 21-yard scramble by Houthaling was recovered at the Texas College 9.
"We have to learn that when you have the opportunity to put one away, you have to put it away," Henderson said. "You don't want to depend on one play. Against a team with good athletes, one play like that can shoot you."
The Steers marched down the field and, after completing a fourth-down pass just before a Wayland sack, had it first-and-goal inside the 10. A sack by Wayland's Samuel Bishop and a couple of penalties backed the Steers up to the 29, but a pass interference penalty on Wayland gave Texas College new life at the 14. The Pioneers wound up getting the ball back on another sack by Bishop that resulted in a fumble recovery by Adam Taylor near midfield, now with just 3:40 showing.
The Pioneers picked up one first down before a fourth-and-13 run by Roberson gained only four yards, giving Texas College the ball at its own 26 with no timeouts and just 1:21 left in the game.
A second-down sack by WBU's Holt Henderson helped bring up fourth-and-16 at the Texas College 20. That's when Curtez completed a clutch pass to Isaac Joshua for 27 yards to the Texas College 47.
On the next play, Curtez found the speedy Allen a half-step behind the Wayland secondary down the middle of the field. Curtez hit him in stride around the 10-yard line, and Allen carried one Pioneer into the endzone for the game-winning points. Curtez ran in the two-point conversion with 15 seconds left.
"You just don't think that's going to happen, especially when you have kids there (defending)," Henderson said.
Cumby called it "one of our bread-and-butter plays for our speed guys. We ran it earlier in the game and hit it big. It just came at the right time."
A stunned crowd of close to 2,000 stood in silence, before being teased one last time by Texas College's short kickoff that gave the Pioneers three more chances to pull out a win.
They couldn't do it.
Cumby said the Pioneers should be proud of how hard they fought.
"Wayland is getting a lot better. From last year to this year, they seem like a whole new team," he said. "They're going to be good…they're already good. That gave us the fight of our lives."
Texas College ended with 36 first downs and 629 yards of total offense, all but 49 of it in the air, while Wayland had 21 firsts and 472 yards, split almost evenly between run and pass. Roberson wound up with 27 carries for 196 yards rushing, while Houghtaling completed 16-of-34 for 224 yards.
Wayland, which lost four fumbles and threw two interceptions, might have had a couple of other scores if not for at least two would-be TD passes that fell incomplete. One was by Seth Eaton near midfield on a fake punt on the Pioneers' second series of the game, and another in the fourth quarter to Josh Amador who appeared to cross the goal line before being stripped of the ball by a Texas College defender.
"It's kind of like that play last week (when a Howard Payne ball carrier rolled off a Wayland defender and raced in for a game-winning touchdown)," Henderson said of whether Amador should have been credited with a touchdown. "Whatever we think it is doesn't matter. That's what was called and what you have to live with."
On defense, Wayland came up with eight sacks – three by Bishop who also had a forced fumble — and two interceptions by Dontay Raglin and Josh Paul. Nathaniel Sisler was credited with a team-high eight tackles and made several big hits while Tyler Smith ended with 7½ stops and David Hockenberry seven.
Henderson said he couldn't be more pleased with the Pioneers' effort.
"They showed tremendous effort all the way through, both offensively and defensively. That part we can't ask any more," he said. "The kids played hard, we just have to find a way to take one all the way through."
The game marked the first of a three-game home stand for Wayland. The Pioneers next host Oklahoma Panhandle State, an NCAA Division-II alliance member of the CSFL, at 2 p.m. Oct. 5. The Aggies, 1-4 going into Saturday night's game against McMurry, have lost to Lamar University, 75-0; Adams State, Colo., 26-10; and the University of Montana, 47-14. Wayland fell to Adams State in its season-opener, 44-0. OPSU's lone win came over Sterling, Kan., 35-13.