By Mike Waters / Special Contributor
ROUND ROCK — ESD lost its chance to repeat as SPC small-school champion in heartbreaking fashion on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Luke Anthony tossed a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brendan Harmon with six seconds left in regulation to force overtime, then connected with Zadok Scott on a 14-yard scoring pass on the first extra-period possession as Fort Worth All Saints rallied to stun defending champion ESD, 38-31.
ESD, on its overtime possession, appeared to have tied the game when, facing a third-and-6 at the 21, Seth Washington found Cameron Pike deep in the corner of the end zone. However, the catch was ruled out-of-bounds, and following a 15-yard penalty on the Eagles, Washington’s fourth-and-21 pass from the 36 fell incomplete in the end zone.
“We knew the game would be a dogfight,” said ESD head coach Richard Williams. “I am so proud of these kids. It was a great game between two great teams. It was amazing to be a part of this game.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the ESD offense got a jump-start from some dazzling kickoff returns.
All Saints kicker Carter Krzeminski, who had booted two field goals total during the season, nailed a 34-yarder just over a minute into the second stanza, the first of a trio of three-pointers in the game, to give All Saints a 3-0 lead.
A Turner Corbett 12-yard touchdown scamper on the next All Saints possession, set up by a 45-yard punt return by Kansas State commit Isaiah Harris, opened the margin to 10-0.
ESD’s Nakeie Montgomery returned the ensuing kickoff 77 yards to get the Eagles (9-2) on the scoreboard.
After Krzeminski hit a 29-yard field goal for the Saints (10-1), Davis Beichler brought back the ensuing kickoff 78 yards for another ESD touchdown, giving the Eagles a 14-13 lead with 2:29 left before halftime.
ESD forced a three-and-out on defense, and with nine seconds remaining before intermission, Washington hooked up with Beichler on a 28-yard scoring play to give ESD a 21-13 lead going into halftime.
The Saints opened the second half with Corbett bursting in from seven yards out, and then he corralled the two-point conversion pass from Anthony to knot the score at 21 apiece.
Regaining possession on the next series, Montgomery hauled in a Washington short pass and raced 72 yards to give ESD a 28-21 lead with 5:37 left in the third period.
An exchange of field goals — a Krzeminski 42-yarder for All Saints late in the third period, and an Adan Garcia 32-yarder for ESD early in the final period — left ESD with a 31-24 lead.
After several possession changes, the Saints got the ball back with 30 seconds left in regulation without any timeouts. On second down at the 38, Harmon made the game-tying catch in the end zone to send the contest to overtime.
All Saints needed just two plays to find the end zone on its overtime possession. Following an 11-yard first-down completion to the 14, Anthony, who finished 30-of-42 for 332 yards passing, found Scott for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
Williams has plenty of reason for optimism heading into next season, as standouts Montgomery and Washington, both juniors, will be back.
Montgomery led ESD with 78 rushing yards on 17 carries in addition to 121 receiving yards. The versatile two-sport standout — he is a Duke lacrosse commit —had 19 receiving touchdowns and 10 rushing scores as well as one kickoff return score this season for ESD. He finished the season with 607 rushing yards, and 56 receptions for 1,072 yards.
Washington finished with 189 yards passing and two touchdowns in the title game, and for the season, amassed 2,655 passing yards and 33 touchdowns with 14 interceptions, while rushing for an additional 299 yards on 89 carries and a pair of scores.
Next season, the ESD offense will return eight of its top 12 players while having to replace eight senior starters defensively.