SportzBuzz – November 2015
As the regular season winds down this month in football, the early-season St. Thomas vs. Strake Jesuit matchup certainly has to get strong consideration as one of the so-called games of the year. Before a crowd of over 10,000 fans at NRG Stadium, St. Thomas pulled out a thrilling 42-35 victory over the long-time rival Crusaders.
“It was a great experience for everybody,” said St. Thomas head coach Tim Fitzpatrick. “The kids being able to play in that big of a platform and the alumni tailgating at NRG, it was like a college or professional game. To play your chief rival in a stadium like that is something the kids will remember forever, especially coming away with the win in dramatic fashion.”
Leading the way for the Eagles’ victory was senior quarterback Michael Keating, who completed 20 of 26 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning, six-yard touchdown pass to Drew Guidroz with only six seconds left in the game. Amazingly enough, it also marked the second straight year in which Keating threw the game-winning touchdown against Strake Jesuit on the Eagles’ final offensive play of the game. In the wake of his heroics, Keating would also be named the Texas High School Football Private School Player of the Week.
Keeping with the game-of-the-year theme, two weeks after that St. Thomas win over Strake Jesuit, it was the Episcopal Knights’ 28-21 victory over St. Thomas that also has to go down as one of the most exciting and memorable games of the football season.
“That was a huge win,” said Episcopal head coach Steve Leisz. “It was Friday Night Lights at its finest. We had a full house at our stadium, with the overflow crowd actually wrapped around the track. You had two great high school football teams on the field, and it was just one of those nights where it was unfortunate that somebody had to lose.”
The game itself went right down to the wire, with Episcopal quarterback Preston Heard connecting on a 39-yard touchdown pass to Zach Bowman with just over one minute remaining to give Episcopal the dramatic victory.
The touchdown pass capped off a brilliant night for Heard, who completed 20 of 30 passes for four touchdowns. “It was an unbelievable night for our entire team,” said Heard. “I’ve never had that feeling before in my life. It was a big game, and even bigger fourth-quarter comeback. We kind of had a chip on our shoulder because they got us last year, but we weren’t going to let that happen this time around.” For his performance, Heard would be honored as the Texas High School Football Private School Player of the Week.
One week later, it was the Strake Jesuit Crusaders who certainly made a case for game-of-the-year consideration in the wake of an incredible 50-49 comeback victory over Katy Morton Ranch. The underdog Crusaders, who trailed 21-0 at one point, scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Zach Zubia to Christian Charbonnet with one second left in the game to pull within one, making the score 49-48.
“At that point Coach Clancy looked at us in the huddle, especially the seniors, and asked if we wanted to go for two points and the win,” said Zubia. “Of course we did. We’ve gone through a lot of adversity over the past couple of years, and we wanted to solidify ourselves as a championship-type team.”
So, on the win-or-lose final play of the game, Zubia lofted a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone, where Charbonnet made a spectacular, leaping, one-handed catch with a defender wrapped around him to give Strake Jesuit the victory. “It was just so crazy,” said Charbonnet. “We were all so happy and excited. There are just no words to describe that win. It really was incredible.”
The winning touchdown also capped off a magnificent night for Zubia, who threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns, and as previously was the case with his quarterback counterparts at St. Thomas and Episcopal, Zubia himself earned the prestigious honor as the state’s Private School Player of the Week.
Editor’s Note: Todd Freed is the Emmy Award-winning co-host and producer of the KUBE SportsZone, which airs Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m. on Channel 57-KUBE. To submit high school sports news for possible inclusion in SportzBuzz, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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