There’s no other way to describe it: Saturday was surreal.
Months of preparation for coaches, players, cheerleaders, band members, anchors, reporters, producers and photographers all culminated in a single, unforgettable experience: the inaugural KSAT Pigskin Classic, a triple-header of incredible high school football matchups at the Alamodome. The opener was a throwback, reviving the old Town and Country Bowl between Smithson Valley and Reagan. The second game was set up to be an emotional roller coaster, featuring Mark Soto’s debut as the new Judson head coach against his former team, Johnson. Lastly, the prime time matchup featured Brennan vs. Steele, a heavyweight battle between the top two ranked teams in KSAT 12′s Top 12.
On paper, it was set up to be an amazing conclusion to our Big Game Coverage (BGC) of Week 1 of the 2022 high school football season. It’s rare when football games truly live up to the hype, but what we all witnessed on Saturday was somehow even better than our wildest dreams could have ever anticipated.
Three games featuring six proud programs all decided by a combined total of five points. An old-fashioned defensive battle decided by special teams. An overtime thriller that featured a second-half comeback for the ages. A dramatic seesaw affair that came down to a game-winning drive led by a sophomore quarterback in the waning seconds of regulation. Words can’t adequately describe all that took place on and off the field within the confines of the Alamodome on Saturday, Aug. 27. Whether you were there in person or watching at home, it’s clear we were all part of something truly special.
Everyone here at KSAT 12 had a blast hosting and calling these three epic games, and we can’t wait for another opportunity to do it all again.
We’ll break down all three games in due time, but there was a ton of great football action on Friday night as well! Let’s recap the biggest moments from the week that was in the very first edition of the Best of BGC for the 2022 season!
Week 1 was chock full of breathtaking plays from all across the greater San Antonio area. On Instant Replay, we selected the best of the best, including highlights from Steele, Burbank, Jourdanton and Antonian!
Be sure to check out all of the highlights from Week 1 as well!
All six teams featured in the KSAT Pigskin Classic made the cut in KSAT 12′s Top 12 preseason rankings, and the results from Saturday’s football extravaganza have had a huge impact on the list heading into Week 2. See which teams made the cut after a wild opening week filled with upsets!
SMITHSON VALLEY 14, REAGAN 13
The Rangers and Rattlers had plenty of history behind them as they entered the Alamodome on Saturday morning, and their game lived up to the billing as a hard-nosed, defensive slug-fest.
Smithson Valley drove right down the field on their first possession. Freddie Dubose capped a nine-play, 58-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown scamper that gave the Rangers a 7-0 lead. Reagan found themselves slogging through tough field position throughout the first quarter, but a booming punt from senior Matt Velasco early in the second quarter flipped the field, which allowed another pair of seniors to deliver a game-changing play. Giuseppe Sessi blocked the very next Rangers punt and linebacker Donnie “Trey” Laurence recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a huge touchdown. Smithson Valley quickly recovered by blocking the ensuing extra point, and they held onto a slim 7-6 lead, but the momentum had shifted to the other sideline. Senior running back Carson Green found daylight on the Rattlers’ next offensive possession for a 54-yard touchdown run that gave Reagan a 13-7 halftime lead.
Neither team found the end zone in the third quarter, and on the first play of the fourth quarter, Smithson Valley’s offense was unable to convert on a crucial fourth down. But on the very next play, Rangers senior linebacker Gavin Woods got the ball back by forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior safety David De Hoyos. Smithson Valley promptly found pay dirt on the ensuing drive. Quarterback Chase Senelick kept it himself for a one-yard touchdown run that put the Rangers up 14-13 with more than nine minutes left in regulation. Reagan marched into Smithson Valley territory on the next drive, but De Hoyos came through in the clutch, blocking a potential go-ahead field goal to maintain a one-point lead. The Rangers then pieced together a masterful, clock-killing drive, possessing the ball for the final 6:48 of regulation to secure a hard-fought, one-point victory. For his late-game heroics, De Hoyos was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
JUDSON 46, JOHNSON 43 (OT)
As a sideline reporter, I had a front row seat to the craziest high school football game I have ever seen.
The emotion was palpable heading into the matchup. Over the past few years, Judson head coach Mark Soto and Johnson head coach T.P. Miller had shared so much history together. For the first time, they would do battle against one another on opposite sidelines. The Rockets stormed out first. Quarterback Andres Villagran found newly-committed Oklahoma Sooner wide receiver Anthony Evans on a 21-yard touchdown strike on the game’s opening drive for a quick 7-0 lead. Running back Nathaniel Stanley doubled the lead on the Rockets’ next possession with an elusive 54-yard touchdown run. A little over two minutes later, Johnson answered with a 33-yard laser from quarterback Ty Hawkins to Alejandro Tavarez that cut the deficit in half. The game then reached a tipping point early in the second quarter as both offenses stagnated, but Soto lit a fire under his defense that helped turned the tide in Judson’s favor. The offense quickly followed suit. Jaden Castillo split time with Villagran at quarterback and hit Jonathan Johnson on a 63-yard bomb with 2:53 left in the second quarter. Two plays later, junior defensive back Myles Davis intercepted Hawkins and returned the ball inside the 20-yard line. Forty-six seconds later, Castillo found the end zone on an eight-yard touchdown run, and Judson found themselves on the verge of blowing out the Jaguars 27-7 at halftime.
Not so fast.
Hawkins took over the game in the third quarter. Facing a 4th-and-1 at midfield, Hawkins burst into the clear on a 49-yard touchdown run that re-energized the Johnson sideline and cut the deficit down to 13 points. Minutes later, he found Lorenn Johnson in the flat, and the sophomore eluded two tackles before racing to the end zone for a spectacular nine-yard touchdown. Suddenly, the Jaguars were within six points of the Rockets. An Adrian Cortes field goal was all Judson could muster in the third quarter, but it was enough to stem the tide and head into the fourth quarter with a two-possession lead, 30-21.
The momentum remained on the Johnson sideline, as a back-and-forth battle broke out. Hawkins hit Tavarez on another beautiful deep ball for a 47-yard touchdown that made it a 30-28 game with 10:50 left in regulation. That’s when the Rockets offense found their groove once again. After Castillo went down hard on a quarterback keeper in the red zone, Villagran entered the game and handed the ball off to Stanley, who capped that crucial drive with an impressive 12-yard score that made it a nine-point game again, 37-28. The Jaguars were not deterred. Hawkins continued to shred a reeling Rockets defense with a seven-yard pitch and catch to Lorenn Johnson, and the Jags pulled back within two points. Judson needed yet another answer. Castillo returned to the game and delivered with an incredible 26-yard touchdown dash that gave the Rockets a 43-35 lead. But the extra point was no good, meaning Johnson could still tie the game and force overtime on the next possession. The way the game had played out throughout the fourth quarter, we appeared to be destined for OT, but with Johnson threatening to score and less than two minutes to play, Davis came up with a game-changing interception in the end zone. The Judson sideline erupted in celebration, as the offense took over at the 20 yard line a few first downs away from securing a nail-biting victory. The Rockets couldn’t quite pick up a first down on the next series of plays, but still managed to burn a significant amount of clock and were in good position as they prepared to punt it back to the Jaguars with 42 seconds left in regulation.
That’s when the game was flipped on its head.
The ensuing snap sailed over the punter’s head, and the Jaguars tackled him to give their red hot offense the ball back inside the 15 yard line. Two plays later, Hawkins found Caden Rizo on a pinpoint pass to the front left corner of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. Hawkins then dove over the goal line for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 43-all and send the Johnson faithful into a frenzy. Hawkins finished with an incredible stat-line: 317 yards passing and six total touchdowns. Once down 20 points at halftime, Johnson had climbed the mountain and forced overtime.
But the Jaguars came up empty on the opening possession of OT, and Judson took advantage, moving into position for Cortes to kick the game-winning 34-yard field goal. As it sailed through the uprights, the Rockets stormed the field in jubilation. Mark Soto’s first victory as head coach of the Judson Rockets turned into an instant classic, and -- potentially -- the Game of the Year. Stanley earned Most Valuable Player honors for his performance, racking up 218 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
After two incredible games, how could Steele vs. Brennan possibly live up to that standard?
STEELE 35, BRENNAN 34
Somehow they did. Never count out a prize fight between the top two teams in the city.
Jaydon Bailey and the No. 2-ranked Knights seized control of the game quickly, ripping off touchdown runs of 35 and 83 yards to lead 14-0 after one quarter of play. But the Bears found their stride late in the second quarter, as quarterback Ashton Dubose found Avron Carter and Armando Acevedo for touchdown passes of 24 and 12 yards respectively to tie the game at 14-all heading into halftime.
Brennan took their first lead of the game early in the third quarter thanks to Dubose’s arm. This time, he found his twin brother Aaron Dubose for a 15-yard strike, and the Bears led 21-14. Not to be outdone, Bailey answered with his third touchdown of the game on the very next drive, and we were all tied up once again at 21-all head into the fourth quarter.
Neither team gave an inch. Sophomore Chad Warner took over at quarterback for Steele in the second half and found a wide open Jalen Cooper for a 69-yard touchdown and a 28-21 lead. Five minutes later, Dubose and Bears answered with another three-yard touchdown pass to Carter to tie it up for the third time at 28-all. Then, with a little over one minute left in regulation, Dubose found Jason Love on a screen pass, and he took it the distance for a 38-yard touchdown that looked like it might hold up as the game-winning score. Dubose once again lived up to the billing as one of the best players in San Antonio with five touchdown passes to his name. But a blocked extra point left Brennan vulnerable on the next drive, as they were forced to protect a 34-28 lead.
The stage was set for the dynamic duo of Warner and wide receiver Royal Capell. On the first play of the next drive, Warner stepped up into the rush and found Capell over the middle for a 54-yard catch and run that took only 12 seconds off the clock and gave the Knights a first down at the 14 yard line. Steele struggled to move the ball over the next few plays, setting up a 4th-and-7 with the game on the line. Warner escaped the pocket to his right and fired a pass to the back of the end zone. Somehow, he threaded the needle between two defenders right into the outstretched arms of Capell for the game-winning 16-yard score with 18 seconds left in regulation, as Steele knocked off the No. 1 team in the city, 35-34.
The celebration was somewhat muted, however. On the final play of the game, Brennan wide receiver Armando Acevedo went down hard and lay motionless after colliding with a teammate. Medical personnel came to his aid immediately, and he was loaded onto a stretcher. Thankfully, he gave the crowd a thumbs up to signify he was okay, and posted an update on twitter Sunday afternoon confirming his status. We wish Acevedo a speedy recovery, and hope to see him back on the field with the Bears later this season.
On Friday night, I had the pleasure of driving out to Frank Carter Stadium in Carrizo Springs for the Wildcats’ season-opening game against Uvalde. It was my first time visiting Carrizo Springs, and the atmosphere at the stadium was incredible. Both communities came out in full force ready to kick off the season in style. Truthfully, I was wondering how the Coyotes and Wildcats would approach this game. It was impossible not to think of the tragedy that took place at Robb Elementary in May, and Carrizo Springs did a remarkable job of showing their support for a Uvalde community that was still looking for ways to heal. There were shirts designed with “Uvalde Strong” in big, bold letters. Some bore the No. 21 with “Never Forget” emblazoned on the back, in honor of the lives lost. Uvalde senior linebacker Justyn Rendon embodied that spirit by wearing the No. 21 in memoriam and leading the Coyotes onto the field while lifting a “UVALDE STRONG” flag.
Once the game kicked off, it felt like a regular high school football game again. Both teams traded giveaways and missed opportunities throughout a back-and-forth first quarter, but Uvalde pulled ahead in the second. Quarterback Brodie Carnes hit wide receiver Jarrett Hernandez on a deep ball that gave the Coyotes first-and-goal at the five yard line. On the very next play, Carnes hit Jeyden Gonzales for the first touchdown of the game and a 6-0 lead. After the Wildcats answered back with a 55-yard touchdown run by quarterback Evan Castellanos, Jonathan Jimenez found the end zone on a five-yard score with 17 seconds left in the frame to give Uvalde a 14-7 lead at halftime. Carnes then found Hernandez again for a 63-yard touchdown early in the third quarter, and the Coyotes ended up winning the game 21-13.
On a night where 21 lives were on everyone’s minds, Uvalde scored 21 points to win the game. It’s perhaps the most magical and heartwarming result from an opening week for the ages. Sometimes, things are meant to be.
The Coyotes return home to host Eagle Pass Winn next Friday at 7 p.m. It will be the featured game on our BGC Road Trip for Week 2.
In case you missed it, here’s some more local sports highlights and stories from the last week:
We’ll see you on Thursday night for the start of Week 2!
Andrew Cely, KSAT 12 Sports Producer and Reporter