SWEETWATER After a weekend that began with a horrific accident, the Andrews football team came up just short of pulling off an upset, losing 43-33 to Springtown in the Class 4A Division I area playoffs Monday afternoon at Mustang Bowl.
The game was postponed from Friday after an accident near Big Spring involving a bus carrying the Andrews band to the game that claimed the life of Andrews Marching Band Director Darin K. Johns and retired math teacher and bus driver Marc Elbert Boswell.
Playing in front of a passionate crowd of supporters who made the trip from Andrews, the Mustangs may have been eliminated from the playoffs, but head coach Ralph Mason and his team knew that the game was smaller compared to what the community has been going through.
“The football by itself was really small in the big scheme of things but what we talked about was hopefully this game could provide something for our community and school and I think they did,” Mason said. “The interaction between the stands and what happened on the field was very positive.
“Obviously, it didn’t come out like we wanted it to but it’s like life. Not everything is going to go your way but hopefully we taught these kids how to handle those things and be ready when they do happen. Life’s a bigger game than football.”
Mason was still proud of the way his players competed.
“Our kids fought and battled,” Mason said. “They’re hurting in a lot of ways but I’m proud of the effort they gave. The ball doesn’t always bounce your way and the little things happen that you can’t account for.”
Twice in the first half, the Mustangs had 10-point leads.
It wasn’t until the second half that the Porcupines (9-3) took the lead.
Knowing what the Andrews community is going through, Springtown head coach Brian Hulett said his players also learned a life lesson from this weekend.
“We had a lot of heartfelt talks from that (Friday) night and the next morning and again this morning before we stepped on the field,” Hulett said.
Andrews finished the season at 5-7.
“We started the game out and jumped on it quick,” running back Brock Tijerina said. “It was great. The fans came out and supported us.
“It was the entire community. I thought we had that game. Coming out at halftime, we got a three-and-out stop. I didn’t think we were going to lose until that final buzzer. But the whole game, we had great energy and we were playing for each other.”
The Mustangs struck first on their second drive of the day with a 36-yard kick from Julian Mancillas with six minutes to go in the first quarter.
The Porcupines managed to drive down field before being forced to settle for a 31-yard field goal attempt by Logan Heaton that missed to the left.
Andrews capitalized on the ensuing as quarterback EJ Lopez threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Parker and Mancillas’ PAT was good, giving the Mustangs a 10-0 lead with 1:07 left in the first quarter.
Springtown managed to get something going in the second quarter with Matthew Lockard scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run and the PAT from Heaton was good with 9:28 left in the second quarter, cutting the Mustangs’ lead to three.
Andrews responded in the form of a 29-yard touchdown pass from Lopez to Luis Cervantes with 6:47 left to give Andrews a 17-7 lead.
Springtown answered with a 48-yard touchdown reception by Aiden Vickers, bring the Porcupines back within three (17-14) with 3:41 left in the quarter.
An interception by Springtown’s William Gleason was returned to the Mustangs’ 22 late in the half.
The Mustangs’ defense held, however, stopping Lockard on fourth down to end the first half with the lead.
The Mustangs’ defense forced the Porcupines to punt from deep in their own territory at the start of the third quarter and Andrews took over at Springtown’s 45.
Andrews took advantage as the Mustangs came away with points as Mancillas made his second field goal of the afternoon, this one from 31 yards, to give Andrews a 20-14 lead with 7:42 remaining in the quarter.
Lockard gave the Porcupines the spark they needed on the following drive, scoring on a 31-yard run and the PAT gave Springtown its first lead of the game at 21-20 with 6:42 to go in the third quarter.
Andrews answered with another touchdown drive, capped off by a 10-yard pass from Lopez to Ashton Galvan. The 2-point conversion run came up short and the Mustangs had a 26-21 advantage.
Springtown responded in the form of a 63-yard touchdown run by Drake Doggett and Speck Behle added the 2-point conversion for a 29-26 lead with 11:50 remaining in the game.
Tijerina hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Lopez and the PAT gave the Mustangs a 33-29 lead with 9:50 on the clock.
“Our community is down right now and to come out and play for them meant a lot because not everyone gets that chance,” Tijerina said. “It was more than a game and that’s what we kept telling ourselves. It’s for the community.
“Win or lose, we were going to play for them.”
Aiden Vickers scored on a 36-yard pass on Springtown’s next possession to help the Porcupines reclaim the lead 36-33 with 7:30 left.
A fumbled return by the Mustangs on the ensuing kickoff was recovered by Springtown at the Mustangs’ 32 and the turnover proved costly as the Porcupines capitalized with an 8-yard run by Hudson Hulett to extend the to 43-33 with 5:37 remaining.
The Mustangs were unable to overcome the deficit and Springtown held on to advance.
“They’re a good team,” Mason said. “I think you saw two good teams out there and it could’ve gone either way.”
Springtown will next face El Paso Riverside Saturday at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland.