The crack from West Texas Warbirds linebacker Aaaqil Shepard’s shoulder pads snapped through a quiet Ector County Coliseum, a bolt of energy aimed directly at Amarillo Venom running back Brian Handley.
The ensuing clap of thunder erupted from the throats of the Warbirds’ fans, along with Shepard’s teammates as they celebrated with him after the play on the West Texas 5.
A game changer with three minutes to play in the third quarter.
Shepard chased down Venom quarterback David Perkins on the next play and when Carlos Thompson made a one-handed breakup of a Perkins’ pass in the end zone on fourth down, the Warbirds had survived a threat deep in their territory.
Trailing by nine points before the hit, the Warbirds’ defense didn’t allow another point and watched the offense feed off the energy following the play to earn a 65-51 comeback victory in the home opener Saturday at Ector County Coliseum.
“Two big hits,” Warbirds coach Tate Smith said of Shepard’s play. “First one really changed the game.”
It was the second consecutive victory for the Warbirds against the Venom in as many weeks.
“I like being the lightning bolt, the guy who is going to make the play,” said Shepard, who is from the Bronx. “When you get a big hit, it motivates the team.
“I really love the momentum swings, it make the game exciting. They punched in the mouth a little bit in the beginning and we responded; I really like that about this team.”
West Texas quarterback Daniel Smith had a solid evening, completing 15 of 22 passes for 239 yards and a franchise-record eight touchdowns, with one interception.
Wide receivers Thompson and Darien Townsend each caught three touchdown passes, with Aaron Dilworth and Jordan Gandy each finishing with one score.
Thompson, who played at Texas Tech and Missouri Western State, caught five passes for 70 yards, with Townsend hauling in four passes for 77 yards, along with a spectacular leaping catch for a two-point conversion that ended with him flipping over the boards while handing on to the football.
“I just got down here about a week ago, so I didn’t play last week,” said Townsend, who played a Youngstown State. “I was coming from another camp and coach gave me the opportunity and it just feels good to be around great young players.”
Perkins finished the night 13 of 31 for 194 yards and four touchdowns, with wide receiver Martavious Jeffries catching two of the scoring tosses. He finished with four receptions for 101 yards.
Fellow wide receiver Will Martin scored two touchdowns, the first on a 10-yard pass from Perkins and the second a 55-yard kickoff return the briefly put Amarillo back in front, 51-50, with 12:55 remaining to play in the game.
“I thought we played well tonight,” Tate Smith said. “I thought that Amarillo came out a lot faster than last week and did some things that we hadn’t see, so credit to him.
“We went in at halftime and made some adjustments and Coach (Jermaine) Blakely fired his guys up for the second half.”
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West Texas Warbirds 65,
Amarillo Venom 51
Amarillo……………… 14.. 24 7 6 — 51
West Texas…………. 14.. 22 7 22 — 65
West Texas: Aaron Dilworth 31 pass from Daniel Smith (Justin Lehr kick), 13:21
Amarillo: Dren Johnson 1 run (kick failed), 5:58.
West Texas: Derien Townsend 22 pass from Daniel Smith (Justin Lehr kick), 4:09.
Amarillo: Martavious Jeffries 39 pass from David Perkins (Will Martin run), 2:15.
Amarillo: Dren Johnson 32 fumble return (kick failed), 14:51.
West Texas: FG Justin Lehr 23, 11:35.
Amarillo: Brian Handley 6 run (pass failed), 6:22..
West Texas: Derien Townsend 7 pass from Daniel Smith (Justin Lehr kick), 4:31.
Amarillo: Martavious Jeffries 43 pass from David Perkins (pass failed), 3:50.
West Texas: Carlos Thompson 36 pass from Daniel Smith (kick failed), 2:02.
West Texas: Nate Mace fumble recovery in end zone (kick failed), 1:49.
Amarillo: Will Martin 10 pass from David Perkins (run failed), :28.
Amarillo: Wesley Gray 32 pass from David Perkins (Addison McCarley kick), 13:52.
West Texas: Jordan Gandy 5 pass from Daniel Smith (Justin Lehr kick), 9:41.
West Texas: Derien Townsend 45 pass from Daniel Smith (Justin Lehr kick), 13:04..
Amarillo: Will Martin 55 kickoff return (pass failed), 12:50..
West Texas: Carlos Thompson 16 pass from Daniel Smith (Derien Townsend pass from Danile Smith), 11:07.
West Texas Carlos Thompson 3 pass from Daniel Smith (Justin Lehr kick), 2:14.
First Downs…………………… 12…………………. 9
Total Yards…………………. 260……………… 239
Rushes-Yards………….. 18-66………………. 8-0
Passing……………………… 194……………… 239
Comp-Att-Int…………. 13-31-0……….. 15-22-1
Fumbles-Lost………………. 1-0………………. 3-1
Penalties-Yards……….. 10-87…………….. 7-51
Amarillo: David Perkins 8-36, Brian Handley 6-24, Martavious Jeffries 2-4, Dren Johnson 2-2, Undra Hendrix 1-0.
West Texas: Daniel Smith 6-0, Tim Whitfield 3-0.
Amarillo: David Perkins 13-31-0—194.
West Texas: Daniel Smith 15-22-1—239.
Amarillo: Martavious Jeffries 4-101, Wesley Gray 2-35, Will Martin 4-31, Jordan Wayne 1-12, Brian Handley 1-8, Team 1-7.
West Texas: Derien Townsend 4-77, Carlos Thompson 4-70, Aaron Dilworth 3-48, Jordan Gandy 3-44.