MIDLOTHIAN — As football endings go, it was a sad scene on Don Floyd Field.
Even 10 minutes after the game ended Saturday afternoon, Colleyville Heritage receiver Nathan Crouch was sobbing uncontrollably, his face buried in a spectator's shoulder. A few yards away, fellow senior receiver Daniel Farrington, too, was crying hard, down on one knee, and had difficulty catching his breath.
The Panthers' spectacular season was finished. The comeback kids tried, but couldn't do it one more time.
They ran into another set of Panthers, from Waco Midway, a team with a more balanced offense and not even Cody Thomas' 380-yard, four-touchdown passing effort could save Heritage.
Unbeaten Midway, aiming for a second consecutive state-title appearance, piled up 577 offensive yards and held off Heritage's latest comeback try for a 54-44 Class 5A Division II area-round victory at Midlothian ISD Multi-Purpose Stadium.
"I told [his team] I was proud of them, and I love them," Colleyville Heritage coach Mike Fuller said after the postseason huddle broke up and many of his players walked off in tears. "There's nothing you can say right now that they're really going to hear. So we'll talk next week and close things out."
The key to Midway's victory was a combined 352 rushing yards by punishing B.J. Kelly (201, 36 carries) and DeChaar Greer (151, 11 carries). Both scored three times -- Kelly on runs of 5, 1 and 2; Greer on his first three touches: an 83-yard explosion on the first play after Heritage took a 7-0 lead, then a 1-yarder; and a 40-yarder.
Heritage's smaller, outmanned defense couldn't contain Midway's running game. When Kelly wasn't running over people -- and he did a dozen times -- Greer couldn't be tackled.
"They were able to latch on, on the edge, and we couldn't get off the blocks," Heritage coach Mike Fuller said. "They did a really good job. They've got a great football team. We couldn't get off some of the pulling [linemen] and stuff."
"We were able to run the football," Midway coach Terry Gambill said. "The safety and the interception were the key plays. But being able to run the football; you've got give the offensive line credit and our game plan by our offensive coordinator [Derek Alford]. What a great job those guys did."
Kramer Robertson mixed in 182 passing yards and one touchdown and ran for 50 yards for Midway (12-0), which advanced to the Region I semifinals next Saturday against Abilene (also 12-0) at 2 p.m. at Northwest ISD Stadium.
The safety Gambill referenced came late in the first quarter when Heritage fumbled (and recovered) in its own end zone. That, after Heritage led early, 7-0 and 14-6, gave Midway its first lead at 16-14.
Heritage (10-2), which came from behind in six of its victories, never caught up. It fell behind by 16 (37-21) just before the half and just when it looked as if it might get even, Midway linebacker Chrishard Buhl's interception and 50-yard return to the Heritage 15 set up a TD that gave his team a 44-29 lead.
"It comes down to a couple of plays -- the play they made to get the interception on our first possession of the third quarter, which was what put us down," Fuller said. "I was pretty surprised that happened. But he [Buhl] made a great play and set them up.
"It got us further down than you'd obviously like to be. But that's football. It came down to a couple of plays, and they made more than we did."
Still, Heritage kept battling with the comeback its fans had to come to expect.
When Thomas, by far the area's leading 5A passer (3,768 yards, 42 TDs coming in), led a quick 76-yard drive at the start of the fourth quarter -- including a 44-yard pass to Crouch and Thomas' wouldn't-go-down 20-yard run to the 1 on consecutive plays -- Heritage's TD and a PAT pass to Kaelin Debuskie made it 47-44 with 11:15 remaining.
Midway then botched the kickoff return and was stuck on its 7. The game turned for good on one play.
Robertson rolled to his right and found Greer behind the Heritage secondary for a 47-yard gain. Midway took it from there -- with Greer making another catch for 22 yards -- to Kelly's third TD run with 6:59 remaining.
"That play was so huge," Gambill said. "Everybody will go back and talk about this or that, but you've got to be willing to take some chances, and that was huge."
"It's one of those deals where Kramer rolled out and they took his first read away from him," Alford said. "Then he extended the play a little bit and caught Greer. The safeties bit over the top and Greer slipped in behind him, and that's [Robertson's] second guy in the progression."
Fuller said the pass from that deep in Midway's end didn't surprise Heritage.
"I don't think so. The kid [Robertson] just made a good play," Fuller said. "He sprinted out and put it in there. It was pretty close."
Heritage's final two possessions ended in its own territory, with seven incomplete passes to finish up.
Thomas (27 of 54) connected with Crouch nine times for 120 yards (and a 6-yard TD) and Deboskie seven times for 124 yards, including TDs of 19 yards and 47 (36 seconds before halftime). His first touchdown pass went 49 yards to Brett Bofinger, giving Heritage a 14-6 lead.
But it was the last time Colleyville Heritage would hold a lead this season.
"We had six games this year where we came back from trailing to win," Fuller said. "Came back from 20 points down, 21 points down, 17 points down in the third quarter once. They keep fighting, and they overachieve, and they do a lot of great things."
Thomas, who is Oklahoma-bound if he doesn't go into pro baseball, was composed on the field after the game, but politely refused an interview.
"We're going to really miss these seniors," his coach said, "and Cody Thomas is the best football player I've ever had the privilege to coach. And I'm sick that we're not able to play next week."
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