By Alberto Alvarado / American-Statesman Correspondent
Posted at 12:45 AM
ROUND ROCK — For Xavier Simpson and the Stony Point defense, turnovers on Friday nights don’t just happen. It’s something the Tigers work on Monday through Thursday and that repetition was obvious.
The Tigers defense and special teams recovered four McNeil fumbles in the second half and Stony Points found the end zone twice in the final six minutes to pull out a wild 13-12 win over the Mavericks on Friday at Dragon Stadium.
“In practice our coaches just tell us one thing, just go out there and hit them in the mouth,” Simpson said. “In practice, we hit as hard as we can so that we get used to hitting. When we get to game day, it’s just our second nature, we just come out and go full throttle the whole time.”
Cameron Cook finished with 105 yards on 17 carries while Jalen Leonard scored two fourth quarter touchdowns help Stony Point (2-3, 1-3 District 25-6A) win its first district game of the season.
Brad Whittenburg led McNeil (0-8, 0-6) with 12 rushes for 126 yards to go along with 48 passing yards.
“One thing I like about our football team, we don’t ever panic,” Stony Point head coach Craig Chessher said. “Even when I panic, our players don’t panic and God bless them. That’s a game we could have easily lost and we know that.”
The Tigers trailed 6-0 most of the game, but Miles Tubbs helped Stony Point draw even by recovering a McNeil fumble on the Mavs’ 15-yard line. Leonard scored from a yard out four plays later to tie the game at 6-6 with 5 minutes, 22 seconds remaining.
Donovan Zuniga pounced on a McNeil fumble on the ensuing kick off to give the Tigers possession 36 yards away from the end zone.
Leonard would finish that drive with a three-yard rushing touchdown to give the Tigers a 13-6 lead after a Adam Gallardo extra point.
“I though we showed a little determination there toward the end,” Chessher said. “In the fourth quarter we had the ball down there and we started to say we’re going to go straight ahead and we’re going to try to score instead of dancing around.”
McNeil’s Luke Hutchison led the Mavs on their final offensive drive and was able to move the chains by connecting with Mark Henke, Jonathan Samaroo and Jarvis Anderson on 11-yard completions to help the Mavs drive to the Tiger 3-yard line with just 31 seconds remaining.
Whittenburg took a shovel pass from Jackson Collins into the end zone on the next play to make it 13-12 with 28 seconds remaining.
McNeil elected to go for a two-point conversion and the win to snap a nine-game losing streak, but the pass attempt fell incomplete and Stony Point recovered the ensuing onside kick to preserve the victory.
“I know McNeil wanted it just as bad as us,” Simpson said. “We wanted it just as much as they did and we fought to win this game.”
It didn’t take very long for the McNeil offense to give the Mavericks the lead as Whittenburg took a handoff on the third Mavs offensive play of the game, broke through the Tigers defense and scampered 76 yards to the end zone to give McNeil the early lead.
Unfortunately for both offense, that would be one of the lone highlights on either side as the McNeil and Stony Point defenses combined to force six punts in the first half. The Mavs and Tigers also combined to convert on just 22 percent (2-of-9) of their third down attempts.
One drive after taking that 6-0 lead, it appeared McNeil would add to it when the Mavs got the ball into Tiger territory thanks to a 36-yard lateral pass. Hutchison pitched the ball back to Whittenburg who turned and tossed downfield to senior Samaroo, but that drive stalled because of penalties and McNeil punted.
Stony Point opened the game with possession and had offensive consistency in it’s opening drive.
Cook and Leonard helped the Tigers drive from their own 40 to the Maverick 13, but Stony Point’s 32-yard field goal attempt missed wide left.
The Mavericks scored their touchdown three plays later. Whittenburg nearly broke the century mark rushing in the opening half with 97 yards on just six carries, the majority of which came on that long touchdown run.