Cardiac kids advance to state 5A championship game

SHADOW CREEK — No one can accuse the Shadow Creek football team of lulling the fans to sleep. Over the past couple of weeks, holding one's breath during the game is a common practice as the Sharks have snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat.

"We have a great group of players and coaches that have developed trust in each other," Shadow Creek head coach Brad Butler said. "Our coaches and players have done a great job from day one of expecting to be successful here. Since Shadow Creek opened we have been through some highs and lows that have shaped our team."

Such was the case against the San Antonio Wagner Thunderbirds in the 5A Div. I state semifinals and now the first-year Shadow Creek (15-0) varsity football team will travel to AT&T Stadium in Arlington to face the two-time defending 5A Division I state champions Dallas Highland Park Scots (15-0) on Saturday, December 22 at 11:00 a.m. for the state title.

The state title game will be quite a contrast as the Sharks will be facing a team with the most wins in UIL history at 831 while the Sharks have the least amount of wins to date in UIL history with 15.

"We are very familiar with the storied success of Highland Park's football program and respect the challenge we have in front of us," Butler said. "We have followed a consistent plan throughout the playoffs and it is important for us to not deviate from this plan.

"Because there are so many distractions during state championship week, our message is to keep the main thing the main thing."

The game plan against SA Wagner was simple. Stop the ground attack and their two running backs nicknamed Thunder and Lightning. The air attack was not really a threat though that had to be considered in the offensive arsenal.

On the other hand, Wagner's plan was a little more complex as they had to consider the balanced offensive attack of the Sharks who had a solid ground and air attack. The ultimate goal was to keep Shadow Creek's offense off the field.

The plan worked for Wagner in the first half and not so much for Shadow Creek in the opening two quarters.

When the first half horn sounded, the Thunderbirds held a 10-7 halftime edge as well as winning the statistical battle.

The Thunderbirds (13-2) dominated the first half as they held a 158-35 total yards advantage including 11-2 in first downs, 19:38-4:22 in time of possession and 41-12 in total plays.

Shadow Creek opened with a 5-play, 65-yard scoring drive on their first possession of the game capped off by a 5-yard run by quarterback Jamarian George. The PAT by Will Martin was good with 7:33 left in the opening quarter for a 7-0 lead.

However, Wagner set their own tone when they received the ensuing kickoff.

The Thunderbirds began their drive at their own 18-yard line with 7:28 left in the first quarter. 16-plays later, Wagner punched the ball across the Sharks goal line on a 2-yard plunge by L.J. Butler with 11:16 left in the second quarter to knot up the game at 7-7.

Shadow Creek would run only seven more plays for the remainder of the first half while the Sharks defense limited the Thunderbirds to a 30-yard field goal with :03 seconds left before intermission for a 10-7 lead.

The second half was completely opposite of the first half as the Sharks shifted into their patented comeback gear.

The Sharks received the second half kickoff but they ended up losing more yardage than they gained to be forced to punt to Wagner.

The Thunderbirds took possession at their own 49 and easily scored as quarterback Tobias Weaver completed a rare pass to wide receiver Josh Cobbs for a 47-yard scoring bomb with 9:02 left in the third quarter for a 17-7 advantage.

But it took less than a minute for Shadow Creek to answer as George, who ignited the incredible comeback win against Foster the previous week with three late touchdowns, got loose on a 44-yard scoring jaunt at the 8:14 mark of the third period to cut the lead to 17-14 and keep the Sharks in the game.

Shadow Creek's Xavion Alford forced a fumble on Wagner's ensuing possession with Courtney Brown recovering the ball at the Thunderbird 31. However, Wagner's defense and penalties pushed the Sharks backward forcing a punt.

Once again, the Sharks special teams took advantage of a fumbled punt by Wagner to get possession at the Thunderbirds 22 with 5:21 left in the third period.

The Wagner defense once again thwarted the offensive threat by the Sharks to get the ball back on their own 24.

After Wagner moved the ball from their own 24 to the Shadow Creek 26, a fourth-and-15 sack gave the ball back to the Sharks at their own 31 with :57 seconds left in the third quarter.

It took Shadow Creek only six plays to score as George hit Jared Jackson on a 12-yard pass for the score with 11:09 left in the game for a 21-17 lead.

As they did against Foster, George and wide receiver Kealon Jackson hooked up on a third-and-seven play from their own 34 to the Wagner 22 for a first down. The play covered 44 yards setting up the Sharks just outside the red zone.

A George pass to Jared Jackson advanced the ball from the 22 to the eight-yard line. A four-yard loss set the ball back to the 12 before the Sharks found pay dirt and the lead.

But Wagner wasn't going away as they scored on a 40-yard dash by Butler to take back the lead at 24-21 with 8:27 left in the game.

Once again, the Sharks quickly answered as George burned the Wagner defense with a sensational 58-yard scoring run. The missed PAT left the Sharks with a 27-24 lead with 7:40 remaining on the clock.

Wagner began their next possession at the 25 and began to grind out what they anticipated as the game-winning drive.

They moved from their own 25 to the Shadow Creek 19 where the Sharks defense forced a fourth-and-nine with less than three minutes in the game.

The Thunderbirds opted for a game-tying 36-yard field goal attempt that came up short and was fielded by Shadow Creek returner Ronald Nunnery five-yards deep in the end zone. The shifty Nunnery weaved his way through a surprised Wagner offensive unit to return the ball for a 100-yard touchdown that put a dagger in the Wagner squad making the score 34-24 with 2:37 left in the game.

Wagner was forced to punt from their own end zone on the following possession and Shadow Creek took over at the Thunderbirds 15 after a nifty punt return.

Isaiah Harper took the handoff and scooted 15-yards into the end zone with only 1:55 left in the game to put the nail in the coffin for a 41-24 Shadow Creek victory and a trip to the big dance at AT&T Stadium to play for a state championship.

Wagner outgained Shadow Creek in total yardage (395-230), first downs (22-8), total plays (73-34) and time of possession (35:09-12:51).

George was 8-of-14 passing for 109 yards and one TD while gaining 88 yards on 10 carries for three scores.

Kealon Jackson had five catches for 85 yards and Jared Jackson had two grabs for 26 yards.

The difference was the 20-7 Shadow Creek points in the fourth quarter. It proves that stats don't win games, but the team with the most points on the scoreboard when the final buzzer sounds is the winner.

"We have been tested throughout the playoffs and overcome some difficult situations, but you don't just wake up and decide to be a fighter," said Butler. "The perseverance of our team is a direct result of the attitude our coaching staff has worked to instill and the guidance of our players' families."