Devin Henry’s Catch With Four Seconds Remaining Sends Jacksonville To Postseason + Eliminates Nacogdoches
NACOGDOCHES -- Cameron High rolled out and found D'Montrey Christopher for a two-point conversion with four seconds to play and lifted Jacksonville to a 46-45 win Friday against Nacogdoches at Dragon Stadium.
Any other week, that would be the gist of this story.
It didn't really matter that the Indians won their regular season finale. It mattered they didn't lose by more than six points, and Devin Henry's 30-yard touchdown reception from High with the same four seconds left on the clock for a 45-44 deficit secured the team's first playoff appearance since 2012.
The Dragons were eliminated from postseason contention on that touchdown, surrendering their berth to Jacksonville 1:25 after Chris Campos-Gonzalez nailed a 47-yard field goal for the seven-point edge they needed to make the playoffs.
"It's a great feeling," Henry said. "We get to go to the playoffs, train even harder with the boys and hope we do well there. It's a great feeling because for the longest time people have been talking about how it used to be. How it used to be. This is a great feeling knowing we're getting it to where the program used to be."
Jacksonville (6-4, 3-2) is not exactly the most pass-oriented team in the region, which made its winning drive that much more of an achievement. High had only completed 2 of 10 passes for 35 yards and had thrown two picks before the drive began.
But Campos-Gonzalez's kick right down Broadway from serious range put the Indians in a spot where their season would be determined on if they could rise to the occasion. With 1:29 remaining, one timeout in their pocket and at their own 25-yard line after a Campos-Gonzalez touchback, they had no choice but to take to the air.
It was initially a disaster.
High ran for two yards and then threw two incomplete passes to set up a fourth-and-8 situation at Jacksonville's 27-yard line. Christopher bailed the team out with an 8-yard grab at the stick.
High faced third-and-14 the next set of downs after taking a 4-yard sack. That forced Jacksonville to take its timeout with 41 seconds left in the game.
Deahvion Spencer caught a 25-yard pass out of the break, the team drove down to Nacogdoches' 30-yard line from there in three plays and Henry made the decisive play in the front corner of the end zone.
The reason the Dragons (4-6, 1-4) needed to win by seven points, and why Jacksonville could advance to the playoffs with a six-point loss or less, was to break a complicated four-team clot in the District 17-5A standings for the final two playoff berths out of the league. Only four teams from each district make the playoffs.
Nacogdoches and Jacksonville's game hinged on another district play-in game, Lindale versus Whitehouse.
If Lindale won that game, the team that won the Dragons-Indians game would have advanced with a simple win. It became clear around 9 p.m. Whitehouse was going to win.
With a Whitehouse win, the strange point spread was in play. You could essentially add another six points to Jacksonville's total that Nacogdoches had to overcome.
A flurry of early scoring -- both teams scored in the game's first minute toward 27 combined points in the opening quarter -- kept the Dragons-Indians contest well behind the relatively low scoring Lindale-Whitehouse game that kicked off at the exact same moment. Both teams knew what they were working against early in the fourth quarter.
That triggered the Dragons to play like they were losing even though they were winning, 42-38, with 3:15 to play. They burned their final two timeouts on defense to stop Jacksonville from slow playing them and ultimately got the ball back at the Indians' 44-yard line with 2:56 left in the contest.
Nacogdoches drove to the Jacksonville 31-yard line before stalling and Campos-Gonzalez got the magic number to advance on the field goal.
Once Jacksonville answered with Henry's touchdown to close the deficit to 45-44, the only thing that could keep it from advancing to the playoffs was kicking an extra point and allowing the Dragons one final opportunity to get a seven-point win in overtime.
Even kneeling the ball on the point-after attempt and taking the one-point loss would have been OK as far as clinching a playoff berth.
Instead, the Indians went for the win on a two-point conversion to win third place in the district ahead of Whitehouse. It was the difference between winning the top seed out of the district for the Class 5A Division II playoffs or drawing that much of a better opponent next week in the bi-district round.
Jacksonville got the two-pointer and therefore drew A&M Consolidated for its first playoff opponent. The future opponents are leaning toward playing Thursday at Sam Houston State's Bowers Stadium in Huntsville.
"It was the fact we were down one point," Indians head coach Wayne Coleman said. "If we threw an interception and they run it back, we're down three. It's not a big deal. We just thought we'd rather go in as the top seed, have a chance to get the two points and the top seed rather than screw around and just giving it away."
Nacogdoches got one play off in the final four seconds. Quarterback Noah Hildebrand hit Jaylon Douglas up a seam for a 20-yard gain, but Jacksonville closed in on Douglas and there were no teammates around the receiver to take the ball on a lateral.
Friday's game featured 91 combined points, but it was the turnovers that really dictated the outcome.
Both teams earned three takeaways. However, one of Jacksonville's cough ups was a Hail Mary on the last play of the first half.
Nacogdoches fumbled twice in the red zone during meaningful time, and a second-quarter pick turned into a 47-yard interception return by Jaeshun Bush for a touchdown. That gave the Indians a two-possession lead, 24-13.
High set a tone for the Indians on the second play from scrimmage. He ran for a 70-yard touchdown, scored twice more on the ground and then threw the touchdown pass to clinch the playoff berth.
Henry added 102 yards on nine sweeps from his receiver spot and caught two passes for 42 yards. He also had a 75-yard touchdown run wiped off the board on a holding call.
Dragons senior running back Phillip Jones, who began the game as East Texas' third-leading rusher, got held in check for the first half. He scored once on 11 carries for 46 yards. By the time it was over, the standout back had 167 yards.
Hildebrand, an Arkansas-Monticello commitment, had 266 passing yards before the break and started the contest with 103 yards on four consecutive completed passes. He ultimately completed 16 of 24 throws for 366 yards.
Jacksonville's win also ended the high school career of Texas safety commitment Josh Thompson. He's the region's leading NCAA Division I FBS scholarship holder.
The Indians are moving on.
"We want to keep going," High said. "Making the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for us, but we have to keep pushing. We think we have the team to go two, three, four rounds deep. Maybe even state. We're here, so..."
Jacksonville 46, Nacogdoches 45
At Dragon Stadium, Nacogdoches
Jacksonville 14 17 0 15 -- 46
Nacogdoches 13 14 7 11 -- 45
JAX--Cameron High 70 run (Ceasar Guerrero kick), 11:16
NAC--Jaylon Douglas 61 pass from Noah Hildebrand (kick failed), 11:05
JAX--High 43 run (Guerrero kick), 8:13
NAC--Phillip Jones 1 run (Chris Campos-Gonzalez kick), 3:26
JAX--Guerrero 47 field goal, 9:12
JAX--Jaeshun Bush 47 interception return (Guerrero kick), 8:21
NAC--Jed Morgan 64 pass from Noah Hildebrand (Campos-Gonzalez kick), 4:37
JAX--High 13 run (Guerrero kick), 2:42
NAC--Isiah Smith 2 run (Campos-Gonzalez kick), :36
NAC--Jones 25 run (Campos-Gonzalez kick), 2:46
JAX--Vadall Johnson 5 run (Guerrero kick), 6:58
NAC--Hildebrand 21 run (Blake Robertson pass from Hildebrand), 3:31
NAC--Campos-Gonzalez 47 field goal, 1:29
JAX--Devin Henry 30 pass from High (D'Montrey Christopher pass from High, :04
First Downs 19 26
Total Yards 517 565
Rushes-Yards 42-406 46-199
Passing Yards 111 366
Comp.-Att.-Int. 7-17-2 16-24-1
Punts-Avg. 1-30 0-0
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 3-2
Penalties-Yards 8-47 3-35
RUSHING--Jacksonville, Cameron High 18-172, Devin Henry 9-102, D'Montrey Christopher 4-51, Vadall Johnson 8-36, Jaeshun Bush 1-33, Zaquarius Hinton 2-12. Nacogdoches, Phillip Jones 36-167, Noah Hildebrand 6-29, Isiah Smith 4-3.
PASSING--Jacksonville, High 7-17-1--111. Nacogdoches, Hildebrand 16-24-1--366.
RECEIVING--Jacksonville, Henry 2-42, Deahvion Spencer 1-25, Johnson 1-23, Christopher 3-21. Nacogdoches, Blake Robertson 4-123, Jaylon Douglas 4-113, Jed Morgan 4-95, James Sowards 2-21, Kobe Poole 7-14.