The Glenbrook Apaches saw their post season hopes dashed, as they lost a final-minute heartbreaker to Cenla Academy, 40-34, Friday night.
It was one of those games where neither team deserved to lose. Glenbrook dominated the first half, leading 26-6 at halftime, and Cenla came out fired up after halftime and out-scored the Apaches 34-8 the rest of the way to get the win.
"I was just very proud of the way the kids played and battled," Glenbrook head coach Ryan Porter said. "The game felt very much like a playoff game. I felt like this was the best game we've played all year, period. I thought the kids played with a tremendous amount of heart. They just played hard and got after it right from the start."
The Apaches went three and out on their first possession of the game, but after that they played lights out.
After the punt, Cenla took over on their own 15-yard line. On the first play there was a fumble in the backfield and Glenbrook's Jack Parks pounced on the ball on the 11-yard line.
After three short runs, the Apaches faced a fourth and one from the three-yard line. Cayden Maloney lined up at quarterback in the shotgun and after taking the snap, ran right up the middle for the touchdown. Connor Clark then ran in a quarterback draw for the two-point conversion and an 8-0 lead.
Cenla got a big kickoff return back to the Glenbrook 38-yard line to set up their next possession. They worked the ball down to the four-yard line with a first and goal. On first down, the Apache defense held for no gain. On second down, Cenla got just one yard.
Third down brought a sweep to the right, and as the back cut up, Apache safety Blake Simonton raced up and tripped him for just a one-yard gain. On fourth and goal, Apache linebacker Eric Dozier blitzed in from the right side and stunned the cenla running back for a three-yard loss, which gave the Apaches the ball on down.
On first and 10 from their own five, the Apaches' Willie Thompson gained two yards. On second down, Clark handed the ball to Thompson who moved toward the line, stopped and pitched the ball back to Clark, who then threw downfield to a streaking Cory Walker. Walker grabbed the pass and then out-ran the Cenla secondary all the way for a 93-yard touchdown play.
The two teams then traded punts before Cenla began driving early in the second quarter. The Lions moved the ball from their 30 to the Apache 40-yard line before they tried to get greedy. Cenla tried to test the young Apache secondary, but sophomore corner Jacob White responded with an interception, giving Glenbrook the ball at their 41-yard line.
Thompson gained 15 yards on first down, and then receiver Logan Clark took an inside hand off and ran towards the left end. But he then pulled up and heaved a pass downfield to the wide-open Walker who hauled in the pass for a 32-yard gain.
Two plays later Thompson scored off right tackle to give the Apaches a 20-0 lead.
Cenla used a couple of deep passes to drive to their first score on the next possession, but the Apaches responded with a six-play 47-yard touchdown drive of their own. Clark hit Walker on an inside screen for an eight-yard touchdown. The big play on the drive came when Clark hit Maloney up the seam for 27 yards.
Austin Palmeri ended the Lions next drive with an interception (and 30-yard return), but the Apaches were unable to turn into points and led 26-6 at the half.
"We came out on fire at the start and just played great," Porter said. "We ran early and everything we worked on during the week worked. Cenla came out and did a great job of adjusting in the second half. The first five minutes of the third quarter changed the game."
Cenla used deep passes to set up their first score of the second half, and on the first play after the kickoff, a bad snap cost the Apaches possession of the ball inside their 20. Three plays later, Cenla scored, cutting the lead to 26-20 just like that.
Three series later, Cenla hit the big play once again, this time a 60-yard touchdown pass that tied the score at 26-26.
Glenbrook's Parks made the stop on the two-point play to keep the score tied, as the third quarter ended.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Cenla took over after a Glenbrook punt. It took only two plays for the Lions to take the lead, 32-26.
But then the Apaches responded. Taking over with 7:14 left in the game, Glenbrook began to work the ball down the field. Dozier carried three straight times for eight, seven and three yards, and then Clark kept the ball on an option and ran up the middle for 41 yards. two plays later Thompson carried it over from the eight for the game-tying touchdown. Clark then added the two-point conversion to give the Apaches a 34-32 lead with 4:49 left.
But Cenla wouldn't give up. They worked the ball down the field with sweeps and quarterback keepers and mixing in short passes. They were on the Glenbrook 26 with a third and 11, when the quarterback scrambled out of the pocket and looked to be heading for the first down. But Simonton came up with a shoestring tackle, stopping him seven yards short. Cenla then had a motion penalty, setting up a fourth and 12. But Glenbrook jumped offside on the next play, resetting the fourth and seven, which the Lions barely converted on a screen pass with just 42 seconds left in the game. Cenla then scored on the next play to lead 40-34.
Glenbrook had one more chance after the kickoff, but a couple of incompletions and a drop ended their hopes. Cenla took over and ran out the clock.
"I was real proud of the kids and the way they responded in the fourth quarter when we had to retake the lead," Porter said. "We just ran the ball down their throats.It didn't the way we wanted it to, but I was real proud of the way the kids played the game."