Baron Browning, now a freshman at Ohio State, batted down Midlothian Heritage’s game-tying two-point conversion attempt with six seconds left in the 2016 regional round.
Last Friday — 53 weeks later — Heritage went for the win with another two-point conversion with 33 seconds left.
The Jaguars got it, but Kennedale marched down the field and senior Kevin Tiero kicked the game-winning 40-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to send the Wildcats to a 45-43 win in the Class 4A Division I regional round.
“It’s up there,” said coach Richard Barrett, recalling the wildest games in his career. “Crazy to think you can go 71 yards in 33 seconds and still have time on the clock, but we told our kids to keep fighting — just get 30 and we’re in field goal range, and we knew we had a weapon in Tiero at kicker.”
The win secured Kennedale (12-1) a spot in the state quarterfinals against Kaufman (12-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Ford Center.
It’s certainly something I’ll never forget, my 200th victory, and winning the way we won, you can never forget that.
Kennedale football coach Richard Barret
“I don’t think I’ve been apart of a game like that before,” senior running back Jaden Knowles said. “I didn’t want it to be my last game ever.”
It also gave Barrett his 200th career win as a head coach.
“It’s certainly something I’ll never forget, my 200th victory, and winning the way we won, you can never forget that,” said Barrett, who’s been with Kennedale for 27 years and the head coach since 2001.
His coaching timeline includes Everman (1979-1981, 1991-1995), Godley (1995-2001) and Kennedale (1981-1991, 2001-present). He’s been a head coach since 1995.
“Kennedale has been a special place to me,” he said. “This is a great place, lot of great people to work with at every level, and I’m certainly honored to be here.”
“I’ve known coach Barrett my whole life,” Knowles added. “He’s seen me when I was a little kid, so to help him get to 200 means a lot to me and to this team.”
While Barrett surpasses a career milestone, he’s still seeking the one thing Kennedale has yet to accomplish — a state football title.
The Wildcats made the state semifinals last year for the first time in program history and if they want to make it two years in a row, they’ll have to get past a tough Kaufman squad.
“Coach Jeramy Burleson has done a fantastic job since being head coach — they have great skill kids,” Barrett said. “Their quarterback is phenomenal, such a great athlete and their offense is explosive.”
Kaufman may be explosive, but Kennedale is just as good.
The Wildcats will rely on their two-headed monster in the backfield in Knowles (1,768 rush, 29 touchdowns) and junior D.J. Kirven (1,716 rush, 34 touchdowns), along with their offensive line which includes four seniors.
“They’re a great team like always, but if we go out and execute — no mistakes, turnovers and penalties — we should be all right,” said Knowles, a four-year starter.
Another four-year starter, senior linebacker Ector Rivera, will be one of the anchors of Kennedale’s defense. Rivera, who made nine tackles against Heritage, is up to 127 tackles and 15 for loss on the season.
Senior cornerback Larry Brooks leads the team with 130 tackles.
And while Kennedale has the numbers on both sides of the ball, another thing going for the Wildcats is the fact that they’re playing at the Ford Center for the third straight week.
“It’s home away from home,” Rivera said. “We get use to playing with the noise — it’s like a home game for us.”
“We know we have our hands full and we’ll have to play our best to win,” Barrett added. “We’re going to have to get a few breaks and a little luck, but to say Kaufman is a formidable opponent would be an understatement. They’re very good.”