DUBLIN, TX- Bob and Norma Cervetto Field was the site of the 1A-D1 State Semifinals and turned in a dogfight between the May Tigers and the Abbott Panthers.
Despite a valiant comeback effort by Abbott, even taking the lead after being down 14 at the half, May did not panic and pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat 50-48 in a helluva game on Saturday night.
May received the opening kickoff and on their first drive May running back Kaden Halk took one to the endzone. After a good point after attempt, May took the lead 8-0 with 8:44 remaining in the 1st quarter.
Abbott running back Robert Munoz wanted a touchdown and on the first offensive play for the Panthers, Munoz went up the middle and took it the distance. Abbott's kick was good, and the game was tied with 8:39 left in the 1st quarter.
The second drive for each team didn’t result in points for either as the defenses locked down. The Tiger's defense locked down so well they had a strip caused by May defender number 25, Avery Williford with 4:39 left in the 1st quarter.
Then, with 3:11 remaining, Halk ran another one in for 6 from 5 yards out. A successful point-after attempt gave May a one-score lead over Abbott.
The next Panthers drive, with 3:05 left in the opening frame, miscommunication between the quarterback and running back cause a pitch to bounce towards May’s endzone. Luckily, Abbott recovered the ball but ended up punting with 1:25 in the 1st quarter.
With seconds left, May' Blake Harrell found Avery Williford in the flats that would turn into a Tiger touchdown. The missed extra point attempt made the score 22-8 to end the 1st quarter.
Abbott wouldn’t take long to get another score as Robert Munoz took one up the middle again for a long touchdown. A successful kick cut the score to 22-16 still in May’s favor.
The next May possession, with 7:12 remaining until halftime, Halk’s number was called again. He raced up the Abbott sideline, cut back to avoid a tackle, and scored. Add in the kick and May was up 30-16.
May attempted the onside kick but Abbott ultimately recovered. Munoz tried but was smothered by the Tiger defense and a pass from Panthers quarterback Karsyn Johnson to freshman receiver Joey Pavelka fell incomplete.
With 6:19 remaining May’s Williford broke through and tackled the runner for no gain which made it 4th down. Abbott played it smart and punted the ball to the 9-yard line.
With 5:17 remaining, May tried to put up points before the half. Penalties asides, May did have an opportunity but couldn’t add to their lead. Still, May went into halftime up 14 and Abbott took that personally.
The second half began and Abbott was forced to punt after the Tiger defense stood their ground.
May had a good run on the next drive but disaster struck when Harrell went to throw the ball but was stripped by Panther defender, which was picked up by Abbott’s Singleton, who began returning the fumble only to put the ball on the ground again. May was hot in pursuit but Abbott ended up with possession after a wild turn of events with 4:24 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
This was the momentum change Abbott needed to start their comeback. Abbott’s Riley Sastala took the house to make it 30-24 after a successful kick with 3:34 remaining.
The next May drive saw a Harrell pass hauled in for a big gain and then a touchdown by Williford with just under 3:00 left in the 3rd quarter and the score was 36-24 after the kick was no good.
On the kickoff, May recovered their onside kick attempt and it began looking grim for the Panthers. The drive after the recovery ended up with a May fumble recovered by a Panther defender.
On the first play for Abbott, who else but Munoz took it the distance for another score with 1:02 remaining in the 3rd. The point after was good and Abbott cut the lead to 36-32, only down 4.
With time ticking off to under a minute, Abbott’s defense stood up and stuffed Halk. May pulled out a play that looked like it belonged in middle school. After the snap, Abbott’s defense got to the passer, who threw it back to Harrel who ended up getting hit in the backfield. The next play was an incomplete pass and Abbott took over.
Even after a bobbled pitch on the drive, Abbott’s running back Singleton took one outside towards his own sideline and managed to cross the endzone with 7:50 left in the game. Abbott had taken the lead 40-36 after a good point after try.
May took the kickoff and had to drive the field with 7:46 remaining.
Halk was met behind the line on the next drive to make it 3rd and 3 yards to go. The Tigers drew the Panthers offside which resulted in a new set for May.
A facemask penalty on Abbott pushed the ball closer for the Tigers and on 4th down, Williford banged one in from 1-yard out. The point after was good and May took control again, 44-40 with 3:56 seconds left in the game.
Abbott turned the ball over on downs the next time out May’s gamer Williford took one around the edge with 1:45 remaining. The kick was no good so May’s lead was 10, 50-40.
Abbott wasn’t through as they scored again with 1:13 left in the game and with a good point after attempt, cut the lead 50-48.
Abbott’s state hopes rested on an onside kick which was dashed when the Tigers recovered the ball.
May ran the clock out and punched their ticket to the AT&T Stadium where they’ll take on the Westbrook Wildcats on December 15, 2021, at 11:00 a.m.