The Trinity Tigers' season came to a close after a tough 34-27 loss against the rival Crockett Bulldogs during the bi-district playoff round Friday at Palestine's Wildcat Stadium.
Despite the Tigers winning the turnover battle and entering the fourth quarter with a six-point lead, the Bulldogs rallied to score three unanswered touchdowns and played shut-down defense late in the game. It would come down to a risky fourth-down call by Trinity that ultimately gave Crockett good field position to make the game-winning score.
Both offenses were efficient in different ways. The Tigers primarily ran the ball and totaled 348 offensive yards, while Crockett relied on a heavy passing game to earn 345 total yards on offense.
The Tigers offense wasted no time looking to control the game early on their opening drive. Karsten Mack ran on six carries, which later set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback, George Vaught, to junior wide receiver, Koby Finley.
Crockett gave up an interception on their opening drive, but managed to regain possession starting from Trinity's 41-yard line. Sophomore wide receiver, Lucky Daniels, made a 35-yard catch that set up a two-yard touchdown run by senior running back, Jamarcus Moten.
Defenses on both sides played well in the second quarter and kept the score tied at the half. Crockett's offense nearly scored after reaching the Tigers one-yard line, but fumbled and lost the ball on a bad snap.
It proved to be a high-energy third quarter as Trinity worked to gain momentum, starting the second half with a 26-yard onside kick by junior kicker, Jose Hernandez, recovered by junior wide receiver, Javonte Oliphant. This set up a reverse run by senior wide receiver, Michael Lewis, for a 22-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs answered immediately and tied the game with a 31-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback, Case Robinson, to junior wide receiver, AJ Phillips.
Robinson and Phillips led the game in passing and receiving yards.
Trinity gained some confidence late in the third quarter by scoring 13 unanswered points. After an interception return by Javonte Oliphant, the Tigers started with good field position and regained the lead with a two-yard rushing touchdown by junior running back, Karsten Mack. Later, a leaping 25-yard catch by Koby Finley set up another short touchdown run by Mack.
Mack was the game's leading rusher with 39 carries for 151 yards and two touchdowns.
The momentum would start to shift as Crockett's offense started to make big plays going into the fourth quarter. Robinson threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver, Lucky Daniels to cut the lead to six points.
On the following drive, Jose Hernandez tried to extend Trinity's lead with a short field goal, but was blocked by the Bulldogs defense. As the Tigers continued to struggle on offense, their defense had no answer to stop Crockett from completing big pass plays when it counted.
This time, it was Crockett's AJ Phillips that scored on a 48-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to once again tie the game. The Tigers defense managed to block the extra point kick, which kept the score at 27 points each.
With all the Bulldog's success, Trinity found themselves in a difficult position on fourth-down trying to regain control and decided to risk a turnover with a fake punt pass by Koby Finley to Michael Lewis. The pass was nearly completed, but broken up at the last moment by the Bulldogs defender. This put Crockett in great position to take the lead, starting from Trinity's 31-yard line.
The game-winning score came from the Bulldogs' AJ Phillips on a three-yard touchdown run. Trinity's offense would have one more opportunity to save their season, but went three-and-out trying to pass the ball under heavy pressure from Crockett's defense.
The Tigers ended their regular season at 7-3, marking the team's best effort in almost 20 years. Although disappointed by the playoff loss, Trinity remained ranked number 26 in Texas 3A-2 to finish their short postseason.