LUBBOCK — The Seagraves Eagles were on a mission going into Friday’s State Semi-finals showdown with the Lions of Albany High School at Lubbock’s Lowery Field. It was a team that represented the end of the road for the Eagles in their 2014 run for a state title, giving the game some new meaning in 2015. It was not to be, however, as Albany bettered the Eagles for the second year straight by a margin of 12-7.
It was primarily the athleticism of Albany Quarterback Drew Neese that kept his Lions in the game, but it was two very costly penalties on the Seagraves side that proved to be game-changers. One of them erased a big touchdown run for the Eagles, and the other facilitated a score by the Lions on what would otherwise have been a disastrous fourth down play for them.
Seagraves struck early and hard, with Skylar Clark taking the opening kickoff to midfield to put the Eagles in good field position. With a pair of strong running plays from Cory Kyle and Robby Pinon moving the ball quickly downfield, Seagraves was on the scoreboard with a final 22-yard carry by Kyle.
After each team came up short on their next possessions – Albany on downs and Seagraves with a punt, Albany Quarterback Neese brought his considerable throwing skills to bear, almost exclusively moving the ball through the air until finally hitting Hunter Owen in the flat from inside the ten yard line to put Albany on the board. The PAT was blocked, and Albany would settle for 7-6 to start the second quarter.
On Seagraves’ third possession, two huge running plays by Kyle put the Eagles inside Albany’s 25, but after a toss back to Kyle on a risky fourth down and four, Kyle’s high lob was intercepted in the End Zone, handing the Lions their third possession deep in their own territory. Unable to capitalize, Albany punted to put Seagraves at their own 45.
A series of hard-hitting running plays moved the Eagles just inside the Red Zone, but the drive ended with a turnover on downs. With just 1:36 left in the half, Neese’s well-aimed passes moved the ball to midfield. With .05 left on the clock, Neese went long and was picked off by Kyle, who set sail for 70 yards and an apparent score. A costly holding call on Seagraves scratched the play, however, and the half would end at 7-6.
Starting from his own 35 to start the second half, Neese continued to throw with deadly accuracy, and run for short yardage first downs when they were needed, until reaching the Eagles six yard line.
With a fourth down and one, the snap sailed over Neese’s head, but an offside call on the Eagles was their disastrous penalty of the night. With Albany getting a do-over and a first down, Neese trotted it in for the Lions’ second score of the night. The two-point conversion failed, and Albany held a 12-7 lead with 5:30 to go in the third quarter.
Both teams brought their defensive A-games for the next nearly 20 minutes of play. In their last chance, the Eagles saw a promising drive come up short when Quarterback Will Wilkins was dropped for a loss, leaving Seagraves with a fourth and 12 with just over three minutes to go. Wilkins’ pass came up short, and with the change in possession, Albany was able to chew up the remainder of the clock, using two timely first downs to secure the 12-7 win.
Sam Holbrooks, Seminole Sentinel