“Watch out, we’re going to hop over the fence and storm the field,” a voice called out among the boisterous cheers that rang out in NRG Stadium. The voice was one of an Atascocita High School student as Eagles quarterback Daveon Boyd found the end zone from six yards out. And storm the field they did.
Hundreds of students hopped the walls at the home of the Houston Texans on Friday night as the Atascocita Eagles punched their ticket to the state semi-finals with a 33-27 win over North Shore. The Eagles have never advanced further than the fourth round, until now.
It was Atascocita who won the toss to open the game and in a surprising twist of events, the Eagles elected to receive. Boyd looked to have been orchestrating the perfect drive to open the rematch of District 21-6A foes as he connected with senior wide receiver Lujuan Winningham to get the Eagles into the red zone. Boyd led the Eagles to the eleven-yard line before throwing an interception right into the hands of North Shore defensive end Joshua Sifuentes.
The North Shore defense earned a big stop big, as it had done all year; now it was time to see what senior Bryant Badie and the Mustangs’ offense could do on their opening drive. Badie found junior Thomas Davis early on, reminiscing Boyd’s connection to Winningham just moments before, setting the Mustangs up inside Eagles’ territory.
It was the champions of 21-6A who struck first. Badie found the end zone on a six-yard run for the first time with six and a half minutes to go in the first quarter. On the ensuing possession, Atascocita’s offense drove down the field again, finding themselves in a first-and-goal situation. Three straight run plays were denied a score by the physical North Shore front seven, Atascocita Head Coach Craig Stump now had a decision to make.
Stump set a precedent for decisions to come as he decided to leave his offense on the field for fourth and goal from the one, as opposed to bringing senior kicker David Heaton III for a seemingly automatic chip-shot field goal. Stump’s confidence in his senior quarterback payed off as Boyd punched it in, preventing another important stop for the North Shore defense, and tying the game at seven all.
The Mustangs responded to Boyd’s touchdown as Badie scrambled for a 17-yard touchdown to regain the lead with one minute to go in the first quarter. At the end of one, North Shore led the Eagles, 14-7.
At the commencement of the second quarter, North Shore looked to be marching down the field once again as they found themselves knocking on the door with a first and goal. This time, it was Atascocita’s defense who would find themselves having to step up to make a big play. The Eagles’ defense did just that, thanks to two big sacks from senior defensive lineman De’marius Brooks and junior outside linebacker Jaylon Allen.
The pair of sacks left North Shore with a fourth and goal from the Atascocita 35-yard line as Head Coach Jon Kay elected to leave his offense on the field, seeing as a 52-yard field goal would be too much for his senior kicker.
The atmosphere inside NRG stadium conveyed the feeling of arising temperatures as the home side, ready to explode as the Atascocita faithful surged to their feet. A few quick passes from Boyd set the Eagles up at the North Shore 31-yard line. On the following play, Boyd danced around in the pocket before exploiting a hole in the center of the North Shore defense. Boyd took off, as he so often does, up the middle and as Boyd shook a tackle, he found an open path to the end zone. As Boyd crossed the goal line, one entire half of NRG Stadium broke out in a resounding, chaotic shout of both relief and excitement.
The two teams took to the locker room at halftime, the score knotted at 14. Atascocita outgained North Shore 241-216 in terms of yardage. The Eagles also added four more first downs in the first half.
As the second half got under way, Badie and his Mustangs drove down the field for a clock-consuming, tediously long drive. North Shore kicker Jonathan Rodriguez nailed the game’s first field goal, giving the Mustangs a 17-14 lead with 7:43 to go in the third. However, Atascocita’s defense would not get to rest on the sideline for long as Boyd threw his second interception of the game. The interception was returned to the Atascocita eight-yard line and the Eagles’ defense found themselves with their backs against the wall once again.
Another test, another answer from the Eagles as their defense held the Mustangs to a field goal. After North Shore contained Atascocita on the kick-off, as they did all game, Atascocita would swing momentum for the first time in the game. Boyd took the snap and immediately fired a bullet across the middle to Winningham. Thanks to a key block by Dawud Shorts and a broken tackle, Winningham turned the quick slant into six points. The 60-yard pitch and catch was the longest play from scrimmage all night and Heaton’s point after gave the Eagles their first lead of the night, 21-20, with slightly over four minutes to play in the third.
Atascocita added a 21-field goal by Heaton to start the fourth, set up by a 34-yard reception from senior receiver Alerick Soularie. As the score stood at 24-20, North Shore had found itself incapable of stopping the Eagles’ high-octane offense throughout the second half. When their chance finally came, a punt returner for the Mustangs botched a punt with more or less eight minutes to play in the game.
Luckily for the Mustangs, after a 25-yard run by Boyd, their defense was able to hold and knock the Eagles out of field goal range. The North Shore defense prevented a potential game-sealing touchdown drive from the Eagles and got Badie the ball back with five minutes to go 73 yards.
North Shore fans sat on the edge of their seats as Badie rolled out on third-and-seven with three minutes to play. Badie connected with senior receiver Eltroy Potts for a first down before a false start took some of that yardage away on the following play. Subsequently however, North Shore began to drive after Badie’s drive-reviving play. Badie connected with Dominic Johnson a few times and a Kerrion Hadnot 11-yard run set up the Mustangs at the Atascocita 11-yard line. Despite the best efforts from Allen and the rest of the Atascocita defense, Badie squeezed a pass through the hands of three defenders and found Hadnot leaping to make the touchdown grab in the back of the end zone.
Devastation compiled the faces of the Eagle faithful as the crowd from the East side went ballistic. With 1:31 to go, the Mustangs took a 27-24 lead.
“We can still do it, we got this,” optimistic voices mumbled with a hint of uncertainty on the Atascocita sideline.
On the ensuing kick-off, North Shore was penalized for a facemask, giving Atascocita excellent field position on the 42 of their own. Boyd wasted no time getting to work, quickly targeting and connecting with Winningham for 11-yards. However, the first down reception was promptly negated due to a false start and a huge sack by North Shore defensive lineman K’lavon Chaisson. As the Eagles faced a third-and-seven of their own on the North Shore 43, the versatile playmaker Boyd hooked up with Soularie on three consecutive plays totaling 19 yards.
Tension was at an all-time high in the building as a pass interference on North Shore set Atascocita up at the Mustangs’ 12. Following an incomplete pass to Hammond in the end zone, Boyd did the unthinkable. After failing to find any open receivers or holes to escape trouble, Boyd began to scramble backwards and was eventually taken down 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Stump sprinted onto the field to find a referee and call a timeout.
Eight seconds remained. To the surprise of many, Boyd trotted back onto the field with the offense for one more rapid play, Eagle fans praying for the best in the stands. Boyd took the snap and immediately slung a bullet to Soularie as they connected on an 8-yard out route.
Four seconds remained. Heaton confidently strutted onto the field and began to set up for the biggest kick of his career. Soularie took the snap and Heaton launched the ball into the air. Good. Heaton’s 36-yard field goal sent the game into overtime. The students’ thumping of the wall padding echoed through the stadium as thousands rose to their feet to cheer.
Head coaches Kay and Stump made their way to midfield to meet with the officials preluding the start of overtime. North Shore would get the ball first, heading toward the Atascocita student section in the south end zone. The air quickly filled with back and forth spectator chants of “North Shore” and “Eagles” as the two sides clashed off the field.
North Shore quarterback Badie stepped up behind his line, barking out orders, trying to convey the message to his offense amongst the loud, hostile Eagle chants. Badie took the snap and connected with Hadnot for 19-yards on a quick slant, silencing the home crowd.
However, in football, momentum can shift drastically with one snap of the ball. The North Shore offense coughed up the ball on the first-and-goal. Atascocita player sprinted for the sidelines, hands in the air, jumping for joy. The official made the call as an Atascocita defender emerged from under the pile with the ball.
A field goal was then needed to win. A focused Boyd walked onto the field, looking up at the scoreboard. Boyd took the snap and immediately handed the ball off to Shannon Junior, who bustled his way to the six. Students in the front row placed their legs on the railing, readying themselves to storm the field upon a score.
Boyd glanced at his coaches who gave him the signal to stay on the field and then relayed the play call to the senior. Boyd dropped back, looking to pass, but after a quick second, spotted a hole. Boyd shook one tackle and sprinted into the end zone, holding the ball above his head as students poured onto the field.
The game was over, the sideline and stands erupted in a thunderous mixture of applause and screams as fans were overcome with emotion.
The Eagles finished with 493 yards of total offense to North Shore’s 357. Boyd finished the game 20-for-36 with 349 yards with one touchdown and two picks. Boyd also led all rushers with 105 yards on 14 carries for three touchdowns, including the game winner. Winningham caught seven passes for 170 yards and a score.
The Atascocita Eagles will travel to San Antonio on Saturday, December 10 to face-off against Lake Travis (13-1) at the Alamodome at 2 p.m. with a trip to the 6A-DI state championship game on the line.