A good team nor a coach ever wants to lose a game. But if you lose, always make sure it was game “worthy”.
Almost two weeks ago, the Kennedale Wildcats (8-4) lost to the Celina Bobcats (10-2). It was what should happen in the playoffs – good teams facing off, the lead changing throughout the game, and no decision until the final minutes of the game. This one qualified as game “worthy”.
In the coldest conditions faced so far by Kennedale this year, the Wildcats lost in a game that could be talked about with pride. The Celina Bobcats came into the game as a top ten 4A DI team, having lost just one game this year. MaxPreps had Celina ranked #7, Texas Football and AP had the team at #6.
Kennedale took the game into the 4th having led or tied it three times before losing the lead and the game in the final minutes of the game. In fact, it was not until the final stop that the Celina Bobcats made on the Wildcats with just under 2 minutes left in the game.
Three stood out …
There were three performances that stood out for Kennedale and all three will be lost due to graduation – Jaylen Webb, Cameron Lyles and Poasa Utu.
These three players accounted for all four of Kennedale’s touchdowns (Note: only one other team, Anna, has scored four touchdowns on Celina this year).
Jaylen Webb gets the game ball with two TDs, one by receiving, one on a fumble recovery that gave the Wildcats their third lead of the game. He was the team leader in tackles at 14 with two for loss.
Cameron Lyles helped give Kennedale the first score in the game with a 3-yard TD rush and then surprised everyone in the stadium when he calmly lofted a halfback pass downfield to a wide-open Jaylen Webb for a 42-yarder and a touchdown that gave the Wildcats their second lead of the game.
Poasa Utu contributed with an electrifying 80-yard kick-off return for a touchdown just as things were looking their bleakest with Celina up 10 and looking to dominate the Wildcats in the third. He also contributed 8 tackles with two for losses while causing the fumble that Webb returned for a TD. That touchdown returned the Wildcats to the lead.
These three accounted for 281 yards of the 311 all-purposed yards that Kennedale had for the game. The all-purpose yards included rushing yards, receiving yards, kickoff return yards, and punt return yards. Utu had 125 yards, all on kickoff returns. Webb had 99 yards on receptions, a fumble return, and punt returns. Lyles had 57 yards rushing.
All that said, it also has to be said that it takes more than three to make a team in football. The 2022 Kennedale team capped another winning season at 8-4 with a district Co-Championship, a bi-district win, and a second-round game in the Texas State Football Playoffs. Hats off to all the coaches, staff, players, and student managers.
Kennedale gets the first lead …
Both teams were stymied on their first efforts in the game with both going 3 plays and a punt, but it was Kennedale who scored first on their second possession. It was an amazing 18-play drive that went from the KN31 with just under eight minutes left in the first quarter and crossed the goal line just over a minute into Q2. It included one 4th & short conversion and a second chance when Kennedale was forced to go for a field goal on a 4&8 at the CL16 but roughing kicker gave Kennedale the ball on the CL8. Two plays later Wildcat Cameron Lyles scored on a 3-yard run. Lance Pate’s PAT was good and the score was 7-0. (Note: on the roughing the kicker on the field goal attempt earlier, Pate’s 33-yard kick was good but the Cats elected to go with the penalty.)
Celina, who has averaged just over 49 points a game, was not intimidated and quickly answered with a 6-play, 79-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 7-7.
Cats score again to take lead but Celina matches …
Once again, the two teams showing their defense strength forced punts after just 3 plays. But on Kennedale’s 4th possession of the game beginning at KN29, the Wildcats scored in 7 plays, capped with a 42-yard pass halfback pass from Cameron Lyles to Jaylen Webb for 42 yards. The PAT by Lance Pate was good and the Cats were back on top 14-7.
However, Celina, with less than 2 minutes in the half and assisted by a “taunting” call against the Wildcats, was able to convert a short field position at the KN49 into another tying TD in a six-play drive. With a good point after kick and the game tied at 14-14, the half ended before the Cats could mount another drive.
The third quarter was a zinger …
The third started with both defenses dominating. Each team on their first two possessions was forced to punt after just 3 plays. Then things turned bad for the Kennedale Cats.
Kennedale was stunned when the Celina Bobcats took control of the game with back-to-back scores. While the Cats did put up a major defensive stand at the KN7 to force Celina to settle for an FG to take the first lead in the second half at 17-14. It was a fumble recovery by the Bobcats a couple of plays later which was returned for a TD that took the breath out of the Wildcat faithful. Kennedale was suddenly down 10 points, 24-14.
Kennedale’s talent responded immediately …
The Wildcats’ opportunistic special teams and defense were not finished. In eye-blinking action, Poasa Utu (Sr) flashed downfield on an 80-yard KO touchdown return. Lance Pate’s PAT was good and Kennedale was back within 3. Then one play after the ensuing KO to the Bobcats, Kennedale’s Jaylen Webb (Sr) picked up a Celina fumble for a 24-yard TD return. And just as quick as a cat, Kennedale was back on top for the third time in the game at 28-24. All this in the 3rd quarter.
4th quarter goes for Celina but the Cats take it to the last …
The 4th starts with a Celina drive that actually started in the 3rd. The nine-play, 75-yard drive ate up four minutes of the fourth period and ended in a TD, putting the Bobcats on top by three points, 31-28.
Celina clamped down on the Wildcats, who after the KO started at the KN19, lost yardage and were only at the KN20 when they were forced to punt on a 4&9. The punt came up short and the Bobcats were sitting pretty on the Kennedale 46.
With just 34 yards and a high probability of icing the game by going up by 10 with less than 6 minutes in the game, Celina was pumped. The Bobcats drove to the Kennedale 7-yard line but that was when the Kennedale defense made another one of their “trademark stands” in the shadow of the goal line and forced the Bobcats to kick a field goal on a 4&5. The game was still within reach of the Wildcats at 34-28.
Celina seals the win with just over a minute in the game …
This is where Celina finally sealed their win. The Bobcats stopped the Wildcats cold after the kickoff in 4 plays at the KN42. One minute and 18 seconds remained on the clock and with no need to risk giving Kennedale’s opportunistic defense a chance, Celina chose to take the knee a couple of times and run out the clock. Score 34-28 Celina.
Celina won the stats game – (key: Kennedale/Celina)
First downs 7/13, Total Yards 143/225, Passing yards 57/52, Rushing yards 86/173, Penalties 8-76/3-30, Fumbles lost 1/1.
Top Wildcats …
- RB Cameron Lyles (Sr) – rushing 56 yds, 1 TD, passing 1 for 42 yds & 1 TD;
- REC/DB Jaylen Webb (SR) – receiving 56 yds, 1 TD, fumble recovery, 1 TD, total all-purpose yards 99 yds, 14 tackles w 2 for loss;
- DB Utu Poasa (Sr) – 80-yard KO return for TD, 8 tackles w 2 for loss, caused 1 fumble;
- LB Jacorey Jackson jr (Sr) – 10 tackles w 1 for loss;
- LB Shane Hull (Sr)- 7 tackles; DB Laurence Hodge (Jr) 7 tackles;
- K Lance Pate 4/4 PATs.
Top Bobcat performers … RB Gabe Gayton 120 yards, QB Noah Bentley 52 yards passing, 1 TD; RB Trae Hollins 19 yards, 1 TD; Rec Reid Cook, 26 yards, 1 TD; K Kaden Lorick – 2/2 field goals; DB Jacob Vincent – fumble recovery for TD.
Playoff Update information
Celina, who finished their season last week against Anna, is 23-4 over the past two seasons. Anna (13-0) gave Celina its only loss of the regular season back on September 16, when the Coyotes won 28-25. This past week Anna defeated Celina 28-24 in the regional semifinals.
Anna will play China Springs (12-1) in the 4A DI Regional Finals this week. Besides the Celina win in the playoffs, Anna also defeated Panther Creek 62-24 and Stephenville 33-32.
In their playoff run this season, China Springs defeated FTW Western Hills 72-7, Kaufman 41-7, and Lake Worth 41-7.