Miracles still on the side of the Mustangs

FRIENDSWOOD — Friendswood played their first playoff game since moving up to Class 6A and it came against a team that was familiar with a lot of success in their history.

The Fort Bend Hightower Hurricanes have been to the state finals in the past at the 5A level. At the same time, the Mustangs made their mark in the state semifinals at the Class 4A level in recent years.

But there has been a certain aura with Friendswood that has seen them pull out games when it seems all is lost.

One of the main characteristics of Friendswood is that there is no quit in the players. And that applies to other sports as well.

"In my 21 years at Friendswood, I might have to go back somewhere around 1999 when we played Waller one night over there when we first started running the spread," Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann said, making a comparison to another exhilarating win.

Friendswood trailed Hightower 29-15 with only 9:12 remaining in the game and it seemed the Hurricanes had the game under control.

But they didn't understand the mojo of the Mustangs nor the never-say-die that has been a strong tradition for Friendswood.

Senior running back Sam Longbotham was one of the key players in leading the Mustangs back from the 14-point deficit late in the fourth quarter.

Facing first-and-20 from the Mustang 44, Longbotham took the deep snap in the Wildcat, found a hole and raced 56-yards for a touchdown with 6:20 remaining in the game. Backup kicker Dallas Beaty booted the PAT to make the score 29-22.

Friendswood's defense stepped up big by holding the Hurricanes to a three-and-out.

The Mustangs got the ball at their own 39 with an opportunity to tie up the game. However, as Longbotham broke free on another big run, he fumbled the ball back to the Hurricanes.

Once again, Friendswood's defense stepped up for their devastated teammate and held Hightower on a fourth-and-two play to get the ball back with only 2:13 left in the game.

The Mustangs went on an 8-play, 64-yard scoring drive with no timeouts that was also aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty on Hightower.

Quarterback Brandon Sargent hit tight end Eric Langston on a 16-yard pass play. Sargent then scrambled to the six-yard line.

Facing fourth-and-three and the game on the line, Sargent zipped a pass to Langston for the touchdown with :20 seconds showing on the game clock. Beaty hit the all-important PAT to knot up the score at 29-29 eventually sending the game into overtime.

The Mustangs got the ball first and scored on the fifth play when Sargent tossed a strike to freshman Nick Swaney covering 11-yards. However, the all-important PAT was missed leaving the Mustangs with a six-point lead 35-29.

All Hightower had to do was to score a touchdown and an extra point to pull out a one-point victory.

The Hurricanes moved the ball from the 25 to the Friendswood 14 on the first play.

That's when the Friendswood mojo would take over as the Hurricane offense was held to a one-yard game to the 13. The second play netted no yardage. On third-and-9, the Hightower quarterback fumble the snap back to the 16.

Facing fourth-and-12, quarterback Neiko Hollins tossed a short screen pass to wide receiver Jaydrian Lee who caught the ball at the eight. The swarming Friendswood defense grabbed the ball carrier and stopped him a yard short of a first down while securing the miracle comeback 35-29.

"When Sam fumbled that ball and he was heartbroken, the kids just kept picking him up," Koopmann said. "You can't say enough about the effort the kids put in.

"That's an awfully good (Hightower) defensive team. They're just scary good on defense."

The fumble is now forgotten and Longbotham certainly was one of the heroes of the game as he will be remembered for his 245 yards rushing on 32 carries and two scores.

Sargent finished with 9-of-21 passing for 113 yards and the two touchdown passes that tied and won the game.

Friendswood (8-3) will now face former district foe Dawson (7-4) on Saturday, November 22 at 2:30 p.m. at Rice Stadium.