Dominique Seastrunk’s interception at the goal line with 41 seconds left halted a furious Canadian rally as Newton held off the Wildcats, 21-16, in the Class 3A Division II title game before 10,032 at AT&T Stadium.
“That was the game...that was who blinked first and they blinked,” said Newton coach W.T. Johnston about the game-saving interception and an earlier pick returned for an Eagles’ touchdown. “I can’t say enough good things about their team though. They’re very well coached, their kids play extremely hard, but they just came out on the short end today and it’s because of turnovers.”
Newton (15-0), No. 1 in the final Associated Press Class 3A state poll, went back-to-back in winning its fifth state title in seven trips to the championship game. No. 4 Canadian (14-2) was also seeking its fifth ring in six trips.
The Eagles dominated the first half to lead 21-0, but Canadian found a spark in the second half.
On the first play of the Eagle’s second series of the second half, an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone gave Canadian 2 points and new life. The Wildcats then took the free kick and drove 71 yards in 6 plays capped by a 5-yard scoring run by quarterback Casen Cavalier to cut Newton’s lead to 21-10 with 4:38 left in the third quarter.
Newton’s defense held Canadian twice on ensuing series and things looked bleak for the Wildcats after losing the ball on downs with 5:20 left in the game.
But two plays later a Newton fumble was recovered by Canadian’s Caleb Martinez at the Eagles 42. The Wildcats took advantage when Cavalier hit Grant McCook with an 11-yard scoring pass with 3:12 left to pull within 21-16.
The Wildcats needed a big stop and got it forcing Newton to punt setting up the final drive with 2:11 left. Canadian took over at its own 27 and after Cavalier picked up 7 yards on a 4th and 2, he hit Garrison McCook with a 35-yard pass play to the Newton 23.
Cavalier was forced to scramble for no gain twice on second and third down before being forced from the pocket on fourth down and throwing it up for grabs prompting Seastrunk’s heroics.
“I ran the wrong play on the play before and it kind of got us in a bind,” said Cavalier, who’s 47 passing attempts set a 3A title game record and 20 completions tied him for 4th. “I threw up a prayer there at the end hoping something would happen...but it didn’t.”
Cavalier’s favorite target was Grant McCook whose 12 receptions set a 3A title game record for 124 yards.
Newton took the opening kick and drove 78 yards in 12 plays to take a 7-0 lead with 8:05 left in the first quarter. The Eagles converted three third downs on the drive.
TCU commit Darwin Barlow had a 27-yard reception, from TCU signee Josh Foster, that netted a first down at midfield. Barlow, the AP Class 3A Offensive Player of the Year, bulled his way for 12 yards and a first down at the Canadian 34 and Foster hit Galen Kellum with a 13-yard pass play to set up a Barlow 4-yard touchdown run.
Both defenses rose up from that point with Newton’s defenders playing a big part in building a 21-0 halftime lead.
Eagles defensive back Kevin Watson, the game’s Most Valuable Player on defense, picked off a Canadian pass at the Wildcats 13 and returned it for a score with 4:20 left in the second quarter to up the lead to 14-0.
After the teams traded punts, defensive back Maliak Metoyer recovered a Wildcat fumble for Newton at the Canadian 36. Five plays later Barlow took a pitch and raced 10-yards around right end and the Eagles increased their lead to 21-0 with 48 seconds left in the first half.
“It’s just a blessing from God that he put us together and I think he put us together for a reason,” Barlow said. “To be coached by Coach Johnston, Coach Drew and all the coaching staff is the greatest feeling in the world.”
Barlow finished with 106 rushing yards on 24 carries and caught 2 passes for 35 yards.