South Houston defensive back Calvin Mitchell heads for the goal-line after intercepting a pass in Memorial territory late in the third quarter. Mitchell returned the ball to the Mavericks' 2-yard line, setting up a touchdown plunge by Byron Hodges.
SOHO'S RUN GAME (WHO KNEW?) SINKS MEMORIAL; BYSTANDER PASADENA KNOCKED OUT OF PLAYOFF MIX
Of the many surprises unveiled at Veterans Memorial Stadium Friday night, by far the biggest was South Houston's ability to run the football.
So shocking was the development, it came as almost an afterthought that the Trojans managed to beat one team and bounce another out of playoff contention -- all in just four quarters. But these four quarters won't soon be forgotten by the Trojan faithful.
Byron Hodges, alternating with passing whiz Rudis Requeno at quarterback, ambushed Memorial with 174 yards rushing and two touchdowns as South Houston secured what had been an imperiled state playoff berth with a 49-40 victory, just the third of the season for the Trojans.
The South Houston tsunami was powerful enough to sweep the Pasadena Eagles -- mere bystanders -- out of the playoff picture in District 22-5A and bring an abrupt halt to the postseason bidding process by district teams.
The Trojans' victory -- their first over Memorial since 2004 -- enabled them to tie the Maverisk for third place in the district standings, each with a 2-3 record.
The Eagles were banking on a South Houston loss that would have enable them to claim the fourth and final playoff spot with a victory on Saturday over Sam Rayburn, winless in league play.
Now, even with a victory over the Texans -- even with a bump up to a 2-3 mark that would technically tie Pasadena with South Houston and Memorial -- the Eagles will still find themselves out of the playoff lineup next week for the 15th year in a row.
Even at 2-3, Pasadena would lost a tie-breaker formula that calculates point differentials in games between three or more tied teams. The Eagles' lopsided 55-24 loss to Memorial last week mathematically precludes them from finishing first or second in a three-team tie-breaker with the Trojans and Mavericks.
The only small bit of suspense still remaining is whether South Houston or Memorial will fill the higher Division II spot in the playoffs.
District champ Deer Park and runnerup Dobie - as the two largest schools in the district - move into the Division I bracket. If Pasadena loses on Saturday, South Houston will get the top Division II nod because of the Trojans' victory over the Mavericks.
If the Eagles win, Memorial will finish as the district's top Division II team because of a plus-9 point differential in games against South Houston and Pasadena.
The Trojans' point different is plus-4. Paadena's is minus-13.
The Trojans' celebration was long and loud, not only because of the victory but because of their near-complete mastery on the offensive side of the ball.
Requeno, averaging 246 yards per game through the air, threw for only 88 this time. But that was good for two TDs. And he ran for another.
It was Hodges, reassigned from the receiver ranks, who gave Memorial fits with his dashes from wildcat formation and finally iced the game with a 5-yard TD run in the final two minutes.
Memorial, also 3-7 for the season, had little luck compensating for an injury to leading rusher Chris Cargile. The senior hauled in a 15-yard TD pass from Greg Gallardo to opening the scoring, but quickly retreated to the bench unable to play through an ankle sprain he suffered last week.
Nick Hernandez picked up some of the slack with 83 yards on eight carries. Adrian Boutee added 78 yards on 11. But Memorial couldn't muster the kind of haymakers that South Houston seemed to keep in surplus.
Key to the Trojans' victory formula were two huge plays not manufactured by the offense. The defense supplied one and special teams the other.
After a 14-14 halftime tie, the Trojans clung to a 21-20 lead late in the third quarter. That's when the game took one of several dramatic turns down the stretch.
Trying to pass deep in his own territory, Gallardo was intercepted by Calvin Mitchell who returned the ball 40 yards to the Memorial 2. Hodges punched it in for a 28-20 Trojan edge.
Reggie Turner countered for the Mavericks with a 12-yard TD run, leaving Memorial behind 28-26 going into what turned out to be a 35-point scoring spree by both teams in the final 12 minutes.
Erick Henriquez helped put the Trojans ahead by nine with a 5-yard TD run. Dorian Johnson answered for Memorial with a 7-yard TD catch of a Gallardo pass. But again, for the fouth straight time following a TD, the Mavericks failed to post any conversion points. Memorial trailed 35-32 with 7:50 left.
The came the backbreaker. Toree Daniel, the district's top receiver, grabbed the ensuing kickoff and raced 77 yards, cutting to one sideline and then the other, to the end zone. South Houston's lead blossomed to 10 points.
Trailing by two scores, the Mavericks claimed one not quite two minutes later when Reggie Turner bolted 25 yards for a TD. A two-point pass from Gallardo to Brandon Thomas made it 42-40 with 5:57 left.
But the Trojan offense blasted its way back into Memorial territory and reclaimed the TD on a 5-yard TD run by Hodges with 1:45 remaining.
Requeno's two TD passes came on a 20-yard toss to Elton Dyer, enabling the Trojans to forge the 14-14 halftime tie, and a 2-yard pass to Daniel to open the scoring in the second half.
Toree Daniel wins the race to the sideline and then prepares to cut all the way across the field enroute to a 77-yard touchdown on a kickoff return that lifted the Trojans to a 10-point lead with 7:35 left in the game.
Byron Hodges, running out of shotgun formation, follows the blocking of receiver Elton Dyer (12) and bolts 28 yards into Memorial territory late in the game.
Chris Cargile, Memorial's leading rusher, turns the corner early in the game.
Cargile scores the game's first points on a 15-yard pass-and-run midway through the first quarter. Cargile left the game later in the first half because of recurring problems with a sprained ankle and did not return.
Trojan quarterback Rudis Requeno breaks into the Memorial secondary late in the first quarter. Later in the drive, Requeno scored his team's first points with a 2-yard run.
Toree Daniel readies a stiff-arm as he tries to turn the corner after a reception.
South Houston linebacker Kenneth Marshall (2) marks the end of the play for Memorial running back Reggie Turner.
Trojan tight end Dequan Moore steps inside of an attempted tackle by the Mavericks' Reggie Turner after catching a pass in the first half.
South Houston defensive back Shaquille Bowman throws a shoulder into Memorial's Reggie Turner at the goal-line -- but not in time to prevent Turner from adding six points to the scoreboard.
South Houston's Erick Henriquez (3) barrels into the end zone from four yards out early in the fourth quarter.
Reggie Turner completes a 25-yard dash to the end zone with 5:57 left in the game as his team pulled to within two points.
South Houston Coach C.L. Whittington congratulates his players on the victory.