Longhorns Win OT Thriller, Make Playoffs

By Randy Jennings / Contributor

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS – On a night when W.T. White had to have a victory to make the playoffs, the Longhorns got it done.

There were many heroes in the 38-35 double-overtime victory over Birdville on Friday, but none bigger than Manny Rodriguez.

The junior kicker delivered the longest field goal of his career, 42 yards, to send his victorious WTW teammates shouting and sprinting in every direction.

“I put my all into it,’’ said a smiling Rodriguez. “My buddies were looking for me to make it and I couldn’t let them down.”

When head coach Kenchee Ross sent Rodriguez onto the field, WTW faced fourth-and-5 at the Birdville 20. The Hawks had already been unable to score on their possession in the second overtime and a third session loomed.

It was far from a routine field goal. The kicker’s first attempt from 37 yards was blocked, but Birdville had used a timeout to freeze Rodriguez before the play started. His next effort had just enough to clear the crossbar from 37, but the Longhorns were penalized for a false start.

Backed up five yards, Rodriguez again cleared by the smallest of margins, and this time it counted.

“I had confidence we were going to win this game,” said Ross, in his second season at WTW. “We haven’t attempted many field goals this season but we practice our kicking game every day.”

The Longhorns (6-4, 5-3) clinched their fourth consecutive playoff berth after going 12 years without a postseason appearance. The Longhorns will face perennial power Frisco Lone Star in a Class 5A Division I Region II bi-district game on Nov. 9 at The Star in Frisco.

Birdville (4-6, 4-4) staged a brilliant rally to force overtime scoring 14 points in the final 2:20, but on both possessions in extra time, the Hawks suffered interceptions by Longhorn defenders Demarkis Troupe and Alexis Vergas.

Neither team could expand a lead to more than seven points until WTW short-yardage specialist Markavious Justice plunged over from a yard away for a 35-21 advantage with 2:20 remaining. But Birdville answered, as it had all evening, with Lamar Leggins’ 88-yard kickoff return giving hope to the home fans.

The Longhorns recovered a redo onside kick, but not before an inadvertent official’s whistle nullified a Birdville recovery on the first attempt. However, WTW could not run out the clock.

The Hawks regained possession on a James Duvall interception with 1:36 remaining and moved smartly on the arm of junior quarterback Noah Normand. Brian Kent made a leaping one-handed end zone catch of Normand’s seven-yard pass with 17 seconds remaining, sending the game to overtime.

Birdville coach Lon Holbrook decided not to attempt a two-point conversion, instead choosing with the momentum to play for overtime.

Demetrius Troupe secured eight catches for 155 yards and three touchdowns for WTW, surpassing the 1,000-yard plateau for the season. The second of his three touchdown receptions, covering 24 yards, staked his team to a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter. Later in the period, his 50-yard catch-and-run broke a 21-21 tie.

Longhorns quarterback Andrew Paredez completed 13 of 26 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Ben Ebeke balanced the attack with 112 rushing yards on 32 carries.

A failed fourth-and-1 try at the WTW 29 led to an equalizing touchdown for the Hawks, a 21-yard pass from Normand to Caleb Kelley on a post route to make the score 21-21. Normand threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns.

Ross, the last to leave the WTW locker room, still wore a grin of satisfaction on the way to the bus. From 2001 to 2019, the Longhorns never won more than five games in a season.

Now they have done it three times in the last four years. More importantly, they still have another game to play.

Other Week 11 scores:

Highland Park 45, Richardson Pearce 20

Jesuit 42, Richardson 21

Parish Episcopal 49, Plano Prestonwood 40

Spruce 35, Hillcrest 33

Tyler Grace 52, Covenant 21

PHOTOS: Rob Graham

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