Pearland falls to Atascocita to end season

PEARLAND — The Pearland Oilers had an up-and-down season dealing primarily with the injury bug, yet veteran head coach Tony Heath still led his team to the second round of the playoffs and perhaps his greatest coaching job in his 20th season at the helm of the Oilers.

Pearland lost starting quarterback Connor Blumrick on the third play of the first game against Clear Springs, yet the Oilers still pulled out a 28-24 win at the inaugural opening of the new CCISD Challenger Columbia Stadium.

While the Oilers lost three regular season games, which is highly unusual, they still pulled themselves up by their bootstraps to beat Clear Springs (9-2) in the opening round of the post-season. Same place, same results by the score of 20-17 to give the Chargers their only two losses of the season.

Pearland (8-4) scored the game's first points early in the second quarter after both teams were able to find the end zone in the opening stanza.

The Oilers moved 74-yards in six plays to take a 7-0 lead with 10:10 left in the second period.

A key play was when QB Jacob Whitehead hit Christian Lake for a 16-yard pass to put the ball at the Pearland 44 yard line. Three plays later, sophomore running back Jaelin Benefield broke free on a 44-yard scoring dash giving the Oilers a 7-0 advantage.

However, Atascocita would answer with their high-octane offense as QB Daveon Boyd, who is considered a top recruit, hit Lujuan Winningham on a 12-yard scoring toss to tie up the game 7-7 at the 6:43 mark.

The score was set up by a Pearland muffed punt giving the Eagles great field position at the Oilers 25.

Atascocita grabbed a 14-7 halftime lead thanks to an 8-play, 54-yard drive capped by a 2-yard sweep around the right side by Boyd. The Eagles took advantage of a 32-yard third down pass from Boyd to Decarlos Demmeritte.

It was all Atascocita in the second half as Boyd threw a scoring strike to Winningham covering 30-yards for one score. Demmeritte added a 27-yard scoring run and Boyd closed out the scoring in the final period with 7:12 left in the game on a 5-yard run.

The Oilers managed one score in the fourth quarter when Whitehead scored on a 1-yard QB sneak to cut the lead to 21-14, but the Eagles scored 14 unanswered points to close out the season for Pearland 35-14.

Them making crucial third-down plays and us not making them was the difference," Heath said. "Our defense finally wore out. Our offense just didn't give the defense the opportunity to rest … and give them some life.

"We've played with a short stick most of the year, and we've just patched it up every week. We gave a great effort. Atascocita just has a lot of weapons.

"This is the class they've been waiting for. They have talent at quarterback, in the slots, at running back and in both lines. They're a good football team."

Pearland has played with a lot of heart all season and some young players had to step up in place of some who were injured.

Whitehead was 17-of-32 passing for 142 yards.

Benefield had 87 yards rushing on 12 carries and one score.

Triston Gibson had six catches for 65 yards and Benefield had five grabs for 31 yards.

Heath wraps up his 20th season with 195 victories and only 53 losses as the leader of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Texas football history.

There is no question that Heath and the Oilers will return again next season with another great football campaign as one of the top teams in the state.

This was Pearland's 17th straight playoff appearance since Heath's arrival in 1997.