Fort Worth North Side football coach Joseph Turner compared watching his Steers rally in the fourth quarter for a 21-20 District 4-5A Division II win over Fort Worth Polytechnic Saturday morning at Scarborough-Handley Field to having a heart attack.
The Steers scored 14 points in the final stanza to clinch the program’s first playoff berth since 1979.
“We have been a second-half team all season,” Turner said. “Unfortunately we didn’t kick it in until the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter is when these guys buckled down and played football.”
North Side (5-4, 4-1) will close out the regular season Thursday at Justin Northwest (5-4, 5-0) for the district championship. Poly (3-6, 1-4) plays Fort Worth Southwest Friday at Handley.
Trailing 20-7 heading into the fourth quarter, North Side turned to a trio of juniors; receivers Da’Wain Lofton and Johnny Perez, and running back Jorge Aguirre.
Aguirre carried seven times for 31 yards on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that helped the Steers slice Poly’s lead to 20-14. Lofton finished off the march with a 2-yard touchdown run with 9:18 to play.
Perez turned in the key play on the drive with the Steers facing a third-and-16 at the North Side 49 when he hauled in a 25-yard pass from junior quarterback Isaak Rosales.
The Steers defense then forced a punt and North Side needed just three plays to take the lead. With the ball at the North Side 47, Lofton took a screen pass from Rosales 53 yards for the score. Eric Tovar’s point-after kick was good and North Side led 21-20 with 5:48 to play.
On the ensuing kickoff, North Side’s special teams forced a fumble and Tovar fell on it at midfield.
The Steers were able to burn the final 5:37 off the clock to secure the win. Lofton converted a pair of fourth downs with runs to put the game away. Lofton finished with 12 carries for 53 yards and a pair of scores. He also caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s an athlete I’ve been waiting my whole career to coach,” Turner said. “He can do anything. He can catch, run, pass, and he’s the best competitor on the field. He’s been the best player on the field every game.”
Rosales threw for 170 yards. Aguirre ran for 112 yards on 22 carries and Perez caught eight passes for 77 yards.
The Parrots held a 13-7 lead at halftime thanks to a pair of touchdown runs by senior running back Adam Woods. Woods scored on an 84-yard run and a 12-yard scamper. Woods finished the game with 17 carries for 127 yards.
North Side’s lone score of the first half came on a 1-yard run by Lofton.
Poly went up 20-7 with 9:07 left in the third quarter when Akeil Smiley returned a punt 39 yards for a touchdown.
“Qualifying for the playoffs is the best selling point I’ll ever have to the kids, community, middle school, parents, friends and fans,” Turner said. “You can’t say we didn’t make it anymore. We made it so what’s the excuse now; let’s play North Side football.”