Cedar Hill thought the Battle of Belt Line was over.
There were two seconds showing on the game clock, but when Longhorns players, coaches and fans saw an injured DeSoto player down in the end zone, which resulted in a mandatory 10-second run-off, they stormed onto the field to what they thought was the eighth consecutive win for Cedar Hill.
However, Cedar Hill was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for running onto the field, which gave DeSoto one more shot at a game-tying touchdown.
DeSoto junior quarterback Samari Collier threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, senior Lawrence Arnold, in the back of the end zone with no time remaining. And then the Eagles decided to go for the game-winning 2-point conversion. But, Collier’s pass on the 2-point attempt was dropped.
This time it was acceptable for Cedar Hill players and fans to storm the Longhorn Stadium field, without further penalties to be assessed, to celebrate a 28-27 victory on Thursday night.
“It was crazy,” Cedar Hill coach Carlos Lynn said. “But it’s what a rivalry is all about. You can’t write a script better than that.”
Tensions were running high more than an hour before kickoff in this installment of the Battle of Belt Line as multiple game officials stood at midfield to keep the two teams separated from each other.
Once the pregame enthusiasm was over and the ball was kicked off into the chilly 42-degree early November air, it was two big plays that lifted the home team into an early two-touchdown advantage.
DeSoto held Cedar Hill to 107 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half, but it was a 39-yard screen pass from Most Valuable Player Kaidon Salter to Corie Allen and a 53-yard burst from Kevin Young that staked the Longhorns to a 14-0 lead less than seven minutes into the first quarter.
“We put them behind the 8-ball during the course of the game,” Lynn said. “We started the first half with a touchdown. We started the second half with a touchdown. We kept the edge. That was probably the difference in the ballgame.”
DeSoto answered quickly.
Collier made two big plays in the passing game on the drive immediately after the second Longhorns’ score to slice the Cedar Hill lead in half. With the Eagles facing fourth and 8 from the Longhorn 21, Collier lofted a completion in the back left side of the end zone to Arnold who made a sliding catch for the touchdown.
After a three-and-out from Cedar Hill, DeSoto drove to the Longhorn 1 after getting pass plays of 21, 20, 25 and 16 yards from Collier, to set up the first of two first-half field goals for Nathaniel Gutierrez, who was good from 28 yards and from 21 on the final play of the first half.
The Longhorns led 14-13 at halftime.
Cedar Hill took the opening drive of the third quarter 63 yards in seven plays to go up 21-13 after a 31-yard touchdown pass from Salter to Quin Bright, a Texas Tech commit, but Collier answered two DeSoto drives later with a 19-yard pass to Ashtyn Hawkins and subsequent 2-point conversion pass to Arnold to forge a 21-all tie with 45 seconds remaining in the third.
Salter and Collier were magnificent for their respective teams as they combined for six total touchdowns and 455 yards of total offense with the latter going 17-of-30 through the air for 309 yards. Salter finished with 80 passing yards and rushed for 40 more.
“Two great athletes,” Lynn said of Salter and Collier. “Two phenomenal kids that’s carrying their teams on their backs. In this state, that’s what you’ve got to have.”
Arnold was exceptional in the DeSoto passing game with seven catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Salter put Cedar Hill ahead for good when he ran from the DeSoto 9 and motioned the ball with his right arm over the pylon with the Longhorns facing fourth-and-goal for a 28-21 lead with exactly five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I just had to get that touchdown to win this game, get our team in the lead,” Salter said.
Collier did his best to give DeSoto one more chance, but his heroics with no time on the clock came up just one two-point conversion short.
“I knew that he was coming up to number 2 (Arnold),” Salter said. “He’s a baller, Lawrence Arnold but the dumbest decision was to go for 2. Our defense held it down for us and got this win.”
After starting the season 0-2 with losses against state-ranked Allen and Denton Guyer, Cedar Hill (8-2 overall, 7-0 District 7-6A) rallied with eight consecutive wins to close out the regular season, and an undefeated run in district play for the first time in 10 years to boot. DeSoto fell to 8-2, 5-2.
“We knew that those two games (Allen and Guyer) didn’t define us,” Lynn said. “We were disappointed that we lost, but we weren’t discouraged. We felt like a play here and a play there in either one of those two games could have gone our way. But we knew that we had a good ball club, a good opportunity to be pretty good.”
Cedar Hill enters the Class 6A playoffs as a No. 1 seed in Division 2 and looks to avenge a first-round loss in last year’s playoffs, while DeSoto is a 1 seed in Division 1 and will play Skyline in the first round.
“It’s all that’s on our mind,” Lynn said. “It wasn’t hard because this is DeSoto, but in the back of our minds, we still got a bitter taste in our mouth from last year, and you better believe this week in practice there is going to be an edge to us. We’re going to be fighting like crap that there is no stone that is unturned.”