HOUSTON

The Friendswood Mustangs kept their season alive in an absolute white-knuckle ride Friday afternoon at NRG Stadium, edging the Humble Summer Creek Bulldogs, 27-26, in their Region III-6A-II area-round playoff matchup.

“My football team is still a work in progress, but I said at halftime one team knew they were going to win the game, and I knew that’d be us, and we made plays when we had to,” Friendswood head coach Robert Koopmann said.

Trailing 27-26 with 3:17 left in the game, Summer Creek drove all the way down to the Friendswood 9-yard line to set up a 24-yard field goal attempt with 7 seconds left. Koopmann then called a timeout to make the Bulldogs’ kicking team think about it.

“You just do it because you’re supposed to do it,” Koopmann said. “A lot of people think it’s on the kicker on those things. I used to be a deep snapper, and the deep snapper is probably more nervous than the kicker in that situation.”

The timeout deftly froze the Bulldogs’ long snapper, as the snap went high, was bobbled and recovered by Mustangs receiver Nick Swaney to seal the game.

“It was pure bliss,” Friendswood receiver Ben Redding (seven receptions, 170 yards, two touchdowns) said. “My legs just gave out. I had to lay on the ground for a little bit. Prayers were answered, so that was fun to watch.”

It was Redding’s 49-yard catch and rumble to the end zone on a screen pass from freshman quarterback Luke Grden that gave Friendswood a 27-26 lead at the 3:25 mark of the fourth quarter.

“It was one of the screen routes that we’re pretty fond of, and our two receivers, Koleman Bell and Swaney, they blocked for me so good, it opened up. So, it was really easy on my part — I just had to run straight. And when you can just run straight, you’re going to score most of the time. It’s all on the blockers there.”

The Mustangs were put in a 14-23 hole as Summer Creek marched 79 yards down field on 10 plays on the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second half, with big quarterback John Holcombe (413 total yards) punching it in the end zone on a 2-yard run after draining 5 minutes off the game clock.

Things looked dire for Friendswood when Summer Creek had a 45-yard punt return to the Mustangs’ 37-yard line and again when Grden threw his third interception of the game to Summer Creek’s Jalen Mayes at the Bulldogs’ 38-yard line. But, each time, the Mustangs’ defense forced a turnover on downs.

Friendswood got a bit of good fortune when Grden completed a pass to Koleman Bell for 23 yards, Bell fumbled the ball and then Swaney scooped it up and raced 42 yards to the end zone to cut the Summer Creek lead to 23-21, 1:28 into the fourth quarter.

A 22-yard field goal by Bulldogs kicker Craig Myron pushed Summer Creek’s lead to 26-21 at the 4:32 mark of the fourth quarter.

Friendswood got on the scoreboard first in the game with a quick four-play, 71-yard drive capped by a 33-yard TD pass from Grden to Austin Alvarez at the 7:06 mark of the first quarter.

Summer Creek answered by driving all the way down to the Friendswood 6-yard line on nine plays, but Mustangs safety Reid Nickerson picked off a pass in the end zone to keep the Bulldogs off the board.

Summer Creek got 13 points off of turnovers in the first half, starting with an interception by Coral Dahl returned to Friendswood’s 4-yard line right at the beginning of the second quarter. On third-and-goal, Holcombe found Deon Cormier on a 4-yard TD pass, but the extra point was blocked by Wyatt Hall to keep Friendswood ahead, 7-6.

Summer Creek took the lead, 9-6, on a 12-play, 6:26 drive that ended with a 23-yard field goal from Myron.

A ball deflected off the fingertips of Swaney was hauled in by Summer Creek’s Joseph Tucker, who returned the interception 40 yards to Friendswood’s 26. Three plays later, Holcombe hit Cormier for a 4-yard TD pass with just 46 seconds left in the half for a 16-7 lead.

After Summer Creek’s kickoff went out of bounds, Grden hit Redding on a 12-yard pass before uncorking a beautiful 68-yard TD connection to Redding with 22 seconds on the clock, sending Summer Creek into halftime break with only a 16-14 advantage.

Grden finished with 295 yards passing, completing 14 of 21 attempts.

“He impresses me every time he’s on the field,” Redding said. “He stays at the same composure the whole game, and it’s really easy to stand by him. I don’t have to worry on any of my routes, because he always puts the ball where it needs to be.”

Mustangs running back Mason Barnes finished with 55 yards on 13 carries and had three receptions for 50 yards. Linebacker Jake Yurachek had three tackles for loss, and Hunter Scott had some key pass breakups.

Friendswood advances to the regional semifinals to face Cy-Fair at TDECU Stadium next Friday at 7 p.m.

James LaCombe: 409-683-5242, james.lacombe@galvnews.com or on Twitter @JamesAtGalvNews

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