Sophomore quarterback Peyton Marchand corralled the high-snap, faked the dive and went off-tackle to the right before breaking the plane of the goal line on Holliday’s 2-point play with 21 seconds remaining to give the Eagles a miraculous come-from-behind victory over Eastland.
“We had all the momentum,” Holliday head coach Frank Johnson said. “Eastland looked tired. I knew we were tired but we had the momentum. Coach Derek Winn made the suggestion of going for two. We decided as a coaching staff to go for two. I knew I was going to be a hero or a goat. The kids executed it extremely well. Momentum makes so much of a difference. Everything was going in our favor.”
The Eagles rattled off 29 unanswered points over the final 25 minutes to stun the Mavericks, 29-28, on Friday, Sept. 4, in Eastland.
Facing a 4th and 1 from the three on the final drive, sophomore Jaxx Johnson plunged into the line. After initially being stopped, Johnson extended the ball across the goal line to pull the Eagles within one before the decisive 2-point conversion.
“It was a great effort,” Frank Johnson said on his fullback. “The o-line got a good push. It kinda scared me when he stuck the ball out. He has great confidence in his ability. During our timeout just before the play, he said ‘give me the ball and I’ll score.’ Jaxx ended up having a really good night.”
In a matchup of conflicting offensive schemes, Holliday rolled up 440 yards on the ground on a whopping 61 carries. Johnson powered the Eagles with 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Junior Hunter Allen added 90 yards on nine carries while junior Austin Jones (11 car., 63 yds) and senior Crae Jackson (7 car., 55 yds, 1 TD) each added healthy contributions in the ground game.
Eastland quarterback and Texas Tech commit Behren Morton went 25-of-36 through the air for 314 yards and three touchdowns while adding 60 yards and a score on the ground in his first action of the season to lead the Mavericks’ high-flying attack. Morton and several other key contributors missed the season-opener against Wall due to a violation of team rules, but Eastland was back to full-strength against the Eagles.
The Eagles did themselves no favors early in the matchup. After the Mavericks marched down the field for a touchdown on their opening possession, Marchand was hit from behind on a rollout and lost the football. Two plays later, Morton scampered around the left-side from 11 yards out to put the Eagles in a 14-0 hole less than four minutes into the contest.
Penalties plagued the ensuing drive for Holliday. Following a 32-yard run by Allen to move the ball deep into Mavericks’ territory, a false start and chop-block foul had the Eagles eyeing 1st and 30 from the Eastland 40-yard line before resulting in a punt.
The Mavericks carved through the Eagles’ defense, going 90 yards in 10 plays to push the advantage to 21-0 with 2:00 minutes to play in the opening quarter. Less than four-minutes later, Morton connected on a deep ball from 55-yards out to extend the lead.
Just before the half, Johnson broke the scoring drought for the Eagles with the team’s first touchdown of the season. The sophomore fullback went untouched up the middle for 34 yards to put the Eagles on the board with 1:21 to play in the half.
“The score before the half absolutely swung the momentum,” Johnson added. “I don’t know what it is, but we haven’t started right in our first two games. We let all kinds of bad stuff happen to us. Eastland didn’t stop us a whole lot early on. We shot ourselves in the foot with fumbles and penalties. We were our own worst enemy. We scored that touchdown and then got the ball to start the third quarter. Eastland wasn’t expecting us to run our up-tempo offense. We cut it to 14 and made it a ballgame.”
After the intermission, the Eagles marched right down the field to chip away at the deficit. Jackson took a pop-pass from Marchand from 8-yards out to trim the score to 28-14. The touchdown was setup by a 39-yard run by Johnson to move the ball down to the Eastland 12.
After forcing a three-and-out, a 12-play drive by the Eagles was halted at the Mavericks’ 20-yard line due to a fumble.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Holliday cut the game to one possession. On a 3rd-and-nine from the Eastland 30, Marchand pumped right before firing left and connecting with junior Hayden Strealy near the front pylon to move the score to 28-21.
The defense of the Eagles forced a stop to give Holliday one final chance.
Taking over at their own 23, the Eagles marched 77 yards in 14 plays, all runs, to set up the go-ahead points.
“The kids showed character,” Johnson stated. “A lot of people will call it a night down 28-0. They fought back. Hopefully we can carry that momentum into our game next week.”
Holliday returns to play on Friday, Sept. 11, against Vernon. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Don Lucy Field.