There was much prayer involved when Dripping Springs head coach Galen Zimmerman watched his Tigers face a season-defining crossroad in Saturday’s area round playoff game at Bobcat Stadium.
Dripping Springs, which trailed 11-6 to the Angleton Wildcats, faced 4th down and 5 at the 15-yard-line with 14 seconds left in the game.
The Tigers needed a miracle. And by God, they got it.
A desperation heave flung by Tiger senior quarterback Reese Johnson floated into the hands of junior Keith Mitchhart. The go-ahead score, a 15-yard touchdown pass, allowed Dripping Springs to escape with a 12-11 win.
For Mitchhart, the moment played out a fantasy many young football fans dream of.
“That’s something every kid dreams about,” Mitchhart said. “Today, it came true. It’s so awesome.”
Guiding the Tigers was a defense that limited Angleton’s powerful Wing-T rushing attack to 207 yards. Angleton running back Tameric Williams rushed for a team high 94 yards, while Zekoma Hall gained 48 yards and a touchdown.
Zimmerman said effort and passion were attributes the defense used to stop Angleton, along with a “great week of practice.”
Tiger senior defensive lineman McKenly O’Neal, who tallied 22 tackles, said the defense focused on Angleton’s three main run plays it ran consistently.
“Our coaches called great plays,” O’Neal said. “Our linebackers did a phenominal job and let the defensive lineman play up front, while the safeties and cornerbacks were there to keep them honest.”
Angleton’s defense, however, was equally as miserly as it held Dripping Springs’ high-powered offense to a pedestrian 306 total yards.
Hindering the Tigers were miscues that stunted momentum. The Tigers lost three fumbles, while also committing eight penalties for 82 yards.
Johnson said the Angleton defense had “speed everywhere.”
“We had some stuff working. It was more of they had a great defense and they had some great plays,” Johnson said. “We thought we would be able to get it, but they’re fast all the way around.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Dripping Springs took the lead following a ten-yard rushing touchdown by Johnson, who finished with 108 rushing yards and 158 passing yards.
But disaster struck on the ensuing point after touchdown attempt as an Angleton defender blocked the kick. Hall snagged the block and returned it for two points.
Dripping Springs led 6-2 at halftime.
The baseball-style score continued after Angleton tallied a fourth quarter field goal, which cut Dripping Springs’ lead to 6-5.
But a constant theme on the day was the grit of a Tiger defense that came up with a pair of critical goal line stands in the game that kept Angleton off the scoreboard.
“All week long, we were prepared to bow our necks. We knew we were going to get in some tight situations on fourth down and we were going to hit them in the mouth,” O’Neal said.
Angleton, however, kept fighting and delivered what many believed to be the decisive blow late in the fourth quarter.
A lost Tiger fumble late in the game turned into a five play, 13-yard Wildcat scoring drive, which was capped off with a Hall one-yard touchdown run. Angleton led 11-6 but failed to score on a two-point conversion.
With three minutes left, Dripping Springs worked to orchestrate a final drive to get back in the game. They almost let the chance slip away.
Facing 4th-down and 20 deep in Angleton territory, Johnson converted by scrambling to avoid pressure before finding Mitchhart on an improbable play to keep the season alive.
“I saw that he wasn’t open, but he had some space, so I threw it to him,” Johnson said. “I knew that he has some of the best hands on the team. He came down with it with a guy in his face.”
From there, the rest is history.
With the win, Dripping Springs advances to play Mission Veterans Memorial on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Alamo Stadium in San Antonio. It marks one of the first times a Dripping Springs football team has won 11 games in a season.
For Zimmerman, the chance to play after Thanksgiving is moment the team relishes.
The ability to watch his players come together as a team in the clutch was equally as meaningful.
“What you call isn’t as important as having 11 kids on the field that believe in each other, make plays and don’t give up,” he said.