AUSTIN — San Marcos sophomore Jamon Johnson hadn’t been kicked to all year. When he finally was, he showed why.
Johnson took the second half kickoff back 101 yards for a touchdown to spark the Rattlers in a 31-26 win against Bowie at Burger Stadium in Austin.
The victory earned San Marcos the District 14-6A championship, its first district title since 2003.
“Yea, that was a mistake. I was hoping they’d kick it to me,” Johnson said. “I just saw daylight and I took it. That was my chance and my opportunity… It definitely turned the momentum of the game, no doubt.”
Johnson’s return was part of a 28-0 run which lasted less than four minutes of game time that took San Marcos from being 13 points behind to 15 ahead.
The Rattlers trailed 16-3 after Bowie junior running back Kyle Carter smashed into the end zone from five yards out with 6:08 left in the second quarter.
But San Marcos’s offense came alive when senior quarterback Prudence Calderon hooked up with junior wide receiver Mhyson Williams for a 44-yard bomb down to Bowie’s 28 with less than two minutes left in the half.
Johnson broke a run to the outside on the next play and dashed down the left sideline to give San Marcos its first touchdown and some much-needed momentum going into the break.
“(The first touchdown) was really important because it got us within reach,” said San Marcos coach Mark Soto. “So when you’re sitting in there (at halftime), you’re believing in yourself… We needed that score.”
Following Johnson’s big special teams score, San Marcos got two more quick touchdowns to seize control of the game. Carter fumbled on Bowie’s first play of the half and Calderon ran for an 18-yard touchdown on the next play to make it 24-16.
Bowie gave San Marcos another short field on its next drive when the punter accidentally went down on a knee because of a bad snap. The Rattlers took advantage with another touchdown run from Calderon, this one from five yards out.
“Gift? Gift?!?!” Soto exclaimed when it was insinuated that Bowie ‘gifted’ them two short fields to start the second half. “That’s called hustle and when you hustle good things happen. When you run to the ball good things happen.
“There was a vibe and energy the whole night. We just needed that extra push and that’s what (Johnson’s kickoff return) was. That’s what started the frenzy… That’s the frenzy we needed to win the game.”
Bowie made a valiant comeback but fell short. Senior quarterback Ethan Nunez hooked up with senior wide receiver Aizayah Santiago for a 27-yard touchdown with 5:09 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs got all the way down to San Marcos’s 8-yard line on the next drive but settled for a 25-yard field goal from senior Nick Medina to cut the deficit to five.
In the fourth quarter, Bowie was stuffed on fourth & 1 at San Marcos’s 44-yard line when seniors Elijah Mercado and Gabe Urratia got in the backfield for a big stop.
The Bulldogs were driving again in the final minutes but Carter fumbled at midfield and San Marcos recovered to run out the clock.
“I’m just grateful to the community and these kids. They’re awesome kids,” Soto said. “(They’re) just resilient. We tell them to be pros, be persistent, be resilient, be overachievers. They did all of that today.”
Johnson rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries and caught one pass for 14 yards to go with his two touchdowns. Calderon ran for 85 yards on 15 carries with a score and threw for 61 yards on 4-of-11 passing.
Carter might be hitting himself for those two fumbles, but Bowie never would have had a chance without his 212 rushing yards and touchdown on 38 carries.
Nunez completed 17-of-34 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown much thanks to junior wide receiver Elijah Higgins (seven catches, 127 yards) and Santiago (six catches, 74 yards, TD), who gave San Marcos’ secondary problems all night.
Brought to you by: