Elks, Lopez boot Spartans
Kickers need to have a short memory and Burleson sophomore kicker Edgar Lopez had one Friday night.
With 11 seconds to play, Lopez nailed a career-long 45-yard field goal that lifted the Elks past arch-rival Centennial, 31-28, in the team’s annual Boot Game at Burleson ISD Stadium. Burleson leads the series, 4-2.
“I didn’t let my emotions get to me,” Lopez said. “I didn’t let them cloud my mind. When it went through the uprights, I was like a wild dog.”
The District 9-5A win kept the Elks (6-1, 3-1) in third place behind Crowley and Everman. The Elks play at Cleburne Friday. Centennial (3-4, 2-2) will host Granbury Friday.
Hayden Whitten, who Lopez replaced at kicker following an injury, talked with Lopez before the kick and gave him some words of advice and support.
“I told him it’s just another kick and to aim through the uprights and you will make it,” Whitten said. “I had all the confidence in the world in him. I was really happy for him. We got the boot back.”
Burleson coach Gary McElroy said there was no doubt about sending Lopez out to attempt the field goal. When the ball sailed through the uprights, McElroy felt better about things.
“My blood pressure went down and I was excited for my guys and my coaches,” McElroy said.
Lopez’s kick erased all memories of his ill-fated 35-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the first half. Centennial senior Kelton Tezeno knifed in from the left side, blocked the kick, then scooped up the ball and returned it 70 yards for a score that gave the Spartans a 28-21 lead at halftime.
“When I blocked it, I looked both ways and the ball was right in front of me. I scooped it and scored,” Tezeno said.
Tezeno’s play capped a wild final one minute and 50 seconds of the first half that saw the Spartans score 22 unanswered points to erase a 21-6 Burleson lead.
Centennial junior quarterback Hunter Prescher scored from one yard-out, then scored on the two-point conversion play to cut Burleson’s lead to 21-14.
On the next play from scrimmage, Tezeno ripped the ball away from Burleson senior receiver Jaylen Johnson and returned the fumble 70 yards for a score that tied the game at 21-21 with 1:23 to play.
“I knew we had to make a comeback and put some points on the board,” Tezeno said. “We had to find a way to score. The offense wasn’t working for us. I had to make a play. I couldn’t let Jaylen score. When I put my arm in there, I felt the ball coming loose.”
Then Tezeno’s blocked kick and return gave the Spartans a 28-21 lead at the end of the first half.
“Kelton’s just a special kid,” Centennial coach Kyle Geller said. “He has a knack for doing things like that. I wish we had won the game for guys like him who made plays like that.”
In the second half, Burleson’s defense stopped all three Centennial drives forcing a punt and two turnovers.
The Elks played with the same composure that McElroy had in the locker room at halftime according to Burleson junior quarterback Jacob Amador.
“He wasn’t upset,” Amador said. “He knew we could to do it. He kept us up and the captains kept us up. We did what we had to do.”
McElroy hit a few points during his halftime talk before letting his coaches take over.
“I didn’t go in and start hollering,” McElroy said. “I pointed out our mistakes, but I said we put 21 points on them in the first half and they really only scored six with their offense. All we have to do is get out there and play our game.”
Following a Jacob Hardie fumble recovery at the Burleson 44 late in the third quarter, the Elks offense needed seven plays to tie the game. Following a 15-yard run by Amador and a personal foul penalty, the Elks moved the ball to the Spartans’ 15.
Four plays later, sophomore running back Jonathan Banks scored his second 1-yard touchdown of the game to tie things at 28-28 with 8:48 to play.
Centennial, under the direction of Prescher, moved the ball on the Spartans next possession. The Spartans running game found a rhythm and moved the ball from its 8-yard line to the Burleson 10 – within range of a go-ahead field goal.
“I’ll be honest with you. I was saying my prayers at that point,” McElroy said.
Facing second and goal from the Elk 10, Prescher’s pass was intercepted by junior safety Jared Johnson at the goal line.
“Basically, I was at the right spot at the right time,” Johnson said. “I saw all the receivers coming out so I just tried to be in the most open area possible. He threw it straight to me. My first thought was, ‘Wow. This might have just won us the game.’”
Geller didn’t shy away from his play call near the goal.
“I called the play,” Geller said. “It was open all night and it was on second down. If we didn’t get it, we’d run the ball on third down and kick the field goal. We just have to execute. Three turnovers in a big game are hard to overcome.”
Burleson took over with 4:39 to play and moved the ball down the field. A late hit penalty hurt the Spartans. Then facing second-and-five at the Spartan 32, Amador was dropped for a five-yard loss by Centennial senior Bryson Fleming.
On third down, Amador completed an 8-yard pass to Jaden Dotson that put the Elks in position to win the game on Lopez’s kick.
“It was kind of iffy on how we were going to approach that last drive,” McElroy said. “We debated on whether we get into our two-minute offense, but they were having a hard stopping our run game. We had plenty of time, so we turned to our running game.”
Burleson opened the game with a 14-play, 68-yard drive that Banks capped with a 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead with 4:31 to play in the first. Centennial responded four plays later when Kyle Burns hit Chris Mosely for a 56-yard touchdown. But the Spartans trailed 7-6 after a missed point-after attempt.
A five-yard punt by Burns gave the Elks great field position at the Spartans 13. Four plays later, Amador scored from a yard-out for a 14-6 lead with 8:43 to play in the second half.
“It’s like a broken record. We had penalties and turnovers that hurt us, plus a punt that was like turning the ball over,” Geller said. “I just have to coach them better.”
Centennial’s next possession ended when Burleson’s Carson Hallack recovered a fumble following a bad handoff. The Elks needed one play to go up 21-6 as Devin Stevenson scored from 17-yard out.
“It’s a tough one to take,” Tezeno said. “It’s killing me on the inside because I know I can’t get that boot back. We played as hard as we could.”