File Photo: Blake Wood/TexasHSFootball

VERNON, Texas — Entering Thursday night’s state semifinal against Wellington, Muenster head coach Brady Carney talked about his team handling the pressure of a big game.

The Hornets were able to do just that, getting two second-half interceptions and enough offense to hold off the Skyrockets for a 31-28 win Thursday night at Lion Stadium to advance to the first state championship in program history.

“These kids have worked hard and deserve to be going to the title,” Carney said after the game. “Anytime you go for the first time, there’s always a certain kind of excitement in the air.”

The Hornets found themselves in a position that they had not been in all season: trailing at halftime.

Down 21-17 at the half and Wellington driving down the field, sophomore cornerback Danny Lutmer intercepted a pass from Luke Williams at the 1-yard line. The Hornets would waste little time getting the ball down the field, as Logan Pagel sprinted 68-yards down the field to give the Hornets the lead.

That lead was short lived as Wellington returner Arturo Tellez took the kickoff back 80-yards for a touchdown to give the Skyrockets the lead. On the ensuing Hornet drive, Muenster quarterback Parker McGrew made some magic — as he had done all season.

On third down and 26, McGrew threw the ball up and found Luttmer with an 81-yard touchdown strike to put the Hornets in front 31-28 late in the third quarter. McGrew finished with 238 yards passing on the night despite only completing six passes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sequence like that,” Carney said. “It was crazy going from one big play to another but we were able to settle down later in the game.”

The craziness wasn’t quite over though.

After exchanging punts, Wellington methodically marched down the field inside the Hornet 40. With the Skyrockets threatening, Luttmer stepped in front of another Williams pass with 1:39 left and picked it off. The Hornets were able to run out the clock and clinch the win.

“He’s an exceptional player as a sophomore,” Carney said of Luttmer. “He has a real knack for the football whether he’s playing offense or defense and he just had one of those nights. He really helped carry us to a win.”

It was a see-saw affair from the beginning of the game at Lion Stadium. On the opening play from scrimmage, McGrew found Carson Trubenbach on 64-yard pass and catch to gain an early advantage. The Skyrockets ground game, though, countered with a Williams’ touchdown run to tie the game at 7 in the first.

The big-play offense would strike again as McGrew found Clay Stevens, who eluded defenders on the way to the end zone for a 14-7 lead. The Hornets led after one despite having the ball for less than two minutes in the first quarter.

The second quarter saw Wellington take control thanks to a Mason Folk 25-yard touchdown run and a 20-yard reception from Jojo McKnight late in the half to give Wellington the lead. The McKnight score came off an interception by Jalen Roland of the Skyrockets.

The Hornets were able to get some points at the end of the half thanks to a long kickoff return. Trey McTaggart would add a 36-yard field goal to make it 21-17. Even as they found themselves in unfamiliar territory, Carney knew his team could handle the pressure.

“These kids came out to fight and they showed that in the second half,” Carney said. “Wellington controlled the line of scrimmage in the first half and I feel like we made some good adjustments. There’s no quit in this team and I’m really proud of that. We’re going to enjoy the moment tonight but we’ll get right back to work to prepare for a very talented Tenaha team.”

Muenster moves on to its first-ever state championship. The Hornets will face Tenaha High School’s Tigers at 11 a.m. Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the Class 2A Division II Championship.

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