Third Down Conversions Propel Muenster Past Tenaha
ARLIGNTON -- Tenaha had Muenster in a difficult situation.
It was the opening drive and the Hornets were in the red zone, but faced third-and-7. If the Tigers could just get a stop, they would walk away feeling good.
Parker McGrew stepped back to pass and found an open Danny Luther for a 20-yard touchdown. It was the beginning of a recurring theme in a game that resulted in a heartbreaking 27-20 Tenaha loss.
Tenaha had been dominant on defense all season. Entering the game, it allowed only 6.6 points per game. Only four minutes into the Class 2A Division II championship, it had given up more than that.
Expectations had to be tempered in this game. Tenaha knew it wouldn't stop Muenster completely, but the amount of times it failed to do so on third down was frustrating.
“Even when we did get them behind in the chains we would give them a big play, in the run game no less," coach Craig Horn said. "We knew they were good coming in, we knew they were gonna be physical up front. I didn’t feel like they’d be able to run the ball as well as they did in the criticial times that they did."
Muenster finished the game with 157 yards rushing. It converted eight of its 14 third down attempts. Perhaps the most crucial came in the third quarter.
After Trai Gardner broke off on a 60-yard run to give the Tigers the lead, momentum had shifted. Muenster faced third-and-9 on the ensuing drive at its own 31. Tenaha was looking at getting the ball back, up 13-10 with a chance to increase its lead.
Again, McGrew was back to pass and again he found Luttmer for a 35-yard gain into Tiger territory. Later that drive, Muenster faced third-and-10. This time McGrew passed to Carson Trubenbach for a 31-yard gain to get the Hornets in the red zone.
In all 66 of the 72 yards it took Muenster to score on that drive came on third downs. The Hornets retook the lead and never trailed again.
Tenaha linebacker Tavoris Giles put it simply.
“We just didn’t execute well enough, and they capitalized,” he said.
Tenaha knows it had a good season, but couldn't feel any of that now. Sadness and frustration were tangible in the postgame press conference. Perhaps, more than anything it's that the Tigers did what they needed on first and second downs.
They just gave up too many plays when it mattered most.
"We did a pretty good job for the most part, but it was just those critical moments where we didn’t make plays," Horn said.
"And that’s why we’re not out there celebrating.”