Arlington Lamar’s inside linebacker Reilly Townsend knew when the opposition trailed by only four points at halftime that high-effort plays had to be made to win. Well, Townsend changed the outcome with his late efforts.
With 4:24 seconds remaining in the game, the Richland Rebels led the Vikings 29-28. The Rebels elected to go for a two-point conversion to lead by at least a field goal, but — with the stage set for failure — enter Townsend.
As Richland’s quarterback Jordan Wiley dropped back to pass, Will Paige blew him up in the backfield, thus popping the ball a few feet in the air to fall, much to Townsend’s surprise, directly into his grasp. Townsend ran it back 90 yards for two points to gain a 30-29 lead.
That lead would stand as Lamar forced Richland to a turnover on downs to eke out the late 30-29 victory at Birdville ISD’s Fine Arts and Athletic Complex (FAAC) Thursday. “He [Paige] hit him [Wiley], and then I saw the ball in the air and I caught it,” Townsend said of the sequence of events. “Then I heard a faint whistle blow, but I just kept running and ended up scoring the two points.” During the first quarter, things were a little sloppy from both teams.
Vikings quarterback and Texas pledge Shane Buechele struggled through the first half, completing half of his 12 passes for 58 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Rebels were threatening in Vikings’ territory, but a miscommunicated cadence from Wiley led to a low, dribbling snap past Wiley. The Vikings recovered the ball at midfield and ended up capitalizing on the turnover. Buechele found Trey McCalip on a corner route with 4:42 left in the half to gain a 14-3 lead. Richland didn’t have a single timeout and faced adversity on the ensuing drive.
The Rebels found themselves fighting the clock and distance, and they won. With a tick left in the first half, Wiley found Colton Curtis from five yards away to cap off a 15-play, 89-yard touchdown drive. The late score cut the Vikings’ lead to four points, 14-10, including a huge momentum swing heading into the locker room. In the second half, both teams began to find a rhythm on offense.
The Vikings’ run game began to click, giving running back Kendall Burt and Buechele a lot of room to evade Richland’s stout defense. The duo spurted for gains of 27, 26, 10 and Burt’s final rush, a seven-yard bolt to the end zone. Richland responded quite nicely with Wiley accounting for 34 of the 62-yard touchdown drive. Wiley made a shifty cut up field, splitting a few defenders to trot across the goal line unscathed.
The Rebels were right back in the game, trailing 21-17 with 1:04 left in the third quarter. Buechele drove his team down field and capitalized on an offsides penalty the following drive, hitting Taron Owens in stride for a 38-yard touchdown connection. Buechele ended his night completing eight of his 18 passes for 115 yards, tossed two touchdowns and recorded an interception. His counterpart completed 53 percent of his passes for 228 yards, three total touchdowns and an interception as well. The next two drives for Richland ended with two passing touchdowns from Wiley.
Richland elected to go for the two-point conversion on the first and the last scores — the latter was Townsend’s game-winning play. “They’re a good football team, and we’re a good football team too,” Vikings coach Laban DeLay said. “Tonight, each of us fought back and forth with all-out effort to make it a great game — and it was.”