GRAPEVINE -- Irving High quarterback Cody Luttrell cut up the Grapevine defense with four touchdown passes -- three in the first half -- and the Tigers' running game took over in the second half to put away a 27-24 District 6-5A victory Friday night.
Irving (2-4, 2-1 6-5A), moving into playoff contention, built a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but ended up having to hold off a spirited Mustangs comeback at Mustang-Panther Stadium.
It was a tough homecoming loss for Grapevine (1-5, 0-3), which is trying to reach the playoffs for the second season in a row but now faces an uphill fight.
Luttrell connected on 14 of 18 passes for 250 yards, with touchdowns of 31 to Justin Moore, 12 to Connor Lawrence and then 42 and 8 yards to tight end Austin Morris.
He also found Michael Coley behind the secondary for a 55-yard play that set up Lawrence's late first-quarter score which gave Irving the lead for good at 14-7.
On both Moore's TD catch and the 8-yarder to Morris, the receivers were well-covered by two defenders but able to grab Luttrell's on-target throws.
"It was a good defense tonight," Luttrell said of Grapevine, "but there were holes in and out. I went through progressions, like the coaches taught me, and found the holes in the defense. I had some playmakers make plays for me."
But the Tigers also needed the running of Jacobi Perry (20 carries, 119 yards) on a final drive after Grapevine had made a game of it when Austin Parker broke a short pass from Brent Harbin 18 yards for a touchdown with 5:55 remaining to make it 27-24.
A 20-yard run by Perry for a first down with 3 1/2 minutes left was a key to killing time and keeping Grapevine from having a chance at an effective final drive.
The Mustangs had fought back behind Riley Albus, who ran for 166 yards on 19 carries, including a 4-yard touchdown 26 seconds before the half, plus an interception by Matt Coffin at the Grapevine 14 that prevented Irving from stretching a 27-17 lead and set off the Mustangs' final TD drive.
The tough-to-tackle Albus asserted himself on that 86-yard drive, sweeping the right side for gains of 8, 25 and 19.
But the Mustangs' last chance began at their 20 with only 1:55 remaining and no timeouts left. They only managed to get just past midfield on the game's final play.
Grapevine's first score, which tied it 7-7, came on Harbin's 49-yard connection to Marcus Dempsey. Defensive end Blake Nava, who sacked Luttrell three times, opened the second-half scoring by dumping the QB in the end zone to make it 21-17.
"It was a complete effort to do what we did tonight," said first-year Irving head coach Aaron De La Torre, a former Tigers player back at his alma mater after an assistant-coaching stint at Denton Ryan. "We want to get to the playoffs, and this puts us in good position.
"Great win. It was a great win for the Tigers tonight."
For Grapevine, it was a case of missed chances -- a fourth-and-2 play that came up short at the Irving 13 early in the second quarter, a goalline interception (by Jarred Tennell-Hickey of Irving) on a wide receiver pass, and a roughing-the-kicker penalty on what would've been the first punt of the game late in the third quarter. That kept an Irving TD drive alive.
"Give Irving credit. They made more plays than we did," Grapevine coach Dave Henigan said. "They made a bunch of plays in the first half, third-and-6, third-and-13, third-and-20, converted all of them. They scored touchdowns on all three of those drives. We've got to get off the field on those drives."
Despite the fifth loss in a row, Henigan saw improvement in his Mustangs, who had given up 69 points twice and 43 in another game.
"They played hard to the end," he said.
Grapevine scored quickly on its first possession, with Harbin -- after a sack -- scrambling madly to his left, then pulling up and finding Dempsey all alone. The Irving secondary, seeing Harbin running, had abandoned its coverage, and Dempsey had an easy time scoring.
The Mustangs, down 14-7, drove 58 yards on their second possession, too, but bogged down and could have tried a 30-yard field goal. But they wanted more. Harbin tried an option read and kept the ball, only to be dropped for a 2-yard loss.
"We thought we could get it," Henigan said. "We're going to play aggressively and, truthfully, we hadn't stopped anybody in four weeks. We've got to score touchdowns. Field goals aren't good enough. We've got to score touchdowns.
"We had some guys that made some plays," he said, noting Albus and Nova, "but they [the Tigers] made more than we did."
"That is one of the most well-coached teams in the Metroplex," De La Torre said, pointing toward the Mustangs. "Dave Henigan is a champion. He has won state championships; he's been involved with great coaches. You can't take anything away from Grapevine and their effort. Class act. Class school."
Henigan was offensive coordinator on a Denton Ryan state championship team; De La Torre also coached there under Joey Florence, although they weren't on the same staff.
After his initial postgame meeting with his team, De La Torre called the Tigers together again; some of them were near the stands celebrating with their fans.
"I don't know if you can beat this," De La Torre told his players. "Guy had zero sleep, 24 hours, zero sleep. Had his first son.
"Give this to the baby," he added, then tossed the ball to junior linebacker Omar Perez (No. 36), whose girlfriend delivered late Thursday.
Perez then was mobbed by his teammates.
"My linebacker and fullback; he starts all over the place," De La Torre said. "... He had absolutely zero sleep. ... He played the best game tonight."
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