Friendswood shares district title with win over PA Memorial 28-27

FRIENDSWOOD — The beginning of the 2021 football season looked awfully bleak as the Mustangs began the football campaign 0-4. While Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann was getting his share of criticism from the arm chair quarterbacks of Friendswood, the veteran coach only needed for his coaching staff and players to stick together and believe in one another.

Despite some of the early skeptics, the Friendswood coaches and players maintained their quiet confidence in one another and were rewarded over the past six weeks going 6-0 while snagging a share of the District 9-5A Div. I championship -- their first since 2010.

“No one thought we would be in this position, but it’s a testament to the players being coachable and believing in us,” Koopmann said.

That trust and belief has been evident the past six weeks which came through in the game against PA Memorial with the hard-fought 28-27 win. The Titans entered the district contest with a 6-0 mark.

With only 2:24 left in the game, Friendswood started their final drive of the game at their own 12-yard line.

Quarterback Matthew Dupuis got the Mustangs started with a 40-yard pass to Hunter Smyrl followed by 18 and 16-yard strikes to J.T. Roher.

Power runner Caleb Corkran bulled his way for a 9-yard gain to the Memorial two-yard line. Corkran got the next call and scored on a 2-yard run to make the score 27-26.

The Mustangs put their faith in Corkran one more time on the two-point conversion and he didn't disappoint and Friendswood scored for a 28-27 lead with 41 seconds left in the contest.

The ensuing kickoff was muffed by the Titans and recovered by the Mustangs to seal the win.

A huge defensive stand prior to the game-winning drive made victory a possibility for Friendswood.

“I told the team, ‘None of y’all watch old-school boxing, but it used to be 15 rounds, and some of those dudes knew going into it that it was going to go 14 or 15, and that’s what this game was going to be,’” Koopmann said. “Our kids performed perfectly, the coaches had an awesome plan.”

The Mustangs got on the scoreboard first with a 31-yard field goal by Pietro Pasqualli with 4:16 left in the opening quarter for a 3-0 lead.

The field goal capped a 13-play drive that took 7:58 off the first quarter clock and kept the ball out of the potent Memorial offense.

The Titans responded with an eight-play 58-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 6-yard TD run by Jah'mar Sanders for a 7-3 lead with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.

Memorial took advantage of a Friendswood fumble that was picked up for a 59-yard gain to the Mustangs 1-yard line.

Sanders took the ball across the goal line on a 1-yard sneak and Memorial had a 14-3 lead with 9:36 left in the second quarter.

The Mustangs answered with an 11-play, 65-yard, 6:33-long TD drive. A 27-yard pass from Dupuis to Smyrl on a fourth-and-7 play to the Titans' 1-yard line. Corkran punched it from there for a TD making the score 14-10 at the half.

Memorial scored in one play from scrimmage to start the second half on a 41-yard TD run by Adrian Hayward for a 20-10 score that took 12 seconds leaving 11:38 in the third quarter.

A 5:18-long Mustangs possession ended with a 20-yard Pasqualli field goal to trim the lead to 20-13 with 1:03 left in the third period.

With :45 seconds left in the third, Hayward score on a 51-yard jaunt to the end zone making the score 27-13 following the missed PAT.

Friendswood answered with another 5-minute drive highlighted by a 33-yard pass reception by Roher and capped by a 5-yard TD reception by Smyrl for a 27-20 score at the 7:23 mark of the fourth quarter.

That set up the late game-winning heroics by the Mustangs to pull out the 28-27 district win.

Friendswood rolled up 426 yards of total offense while holding Memorial to 248 total yards including no passing yards.

Dupuis was 9-of-13 passing for 165 yards and one TD.

Corkran was the workhorse in the ground attack with 24 carries for 147 yards and two scores while Jackson Rhodes had 17 totes for 113 yards.

Smyrl had six catches for 133 yards and one TD while Roher grabbed two passes for 35 yards.

Friendswood (6-4, 6-1) will host the Angleton Wildcats (7-3, 5-3) in the Region III-5A-I bi-district playoffs at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, November 12 at Henry Winston Stadium.