It wasn’t a pretty ending, but overall Kirby Rasco’s first season as football coach of the North Central Texas Academy Pioneers was memorable by his own admission.
“Our kids had a great season,” he said following an 83-22 loss to Seguin Lifegate in the second round of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Six-Man Division II playoffs Saturday at Waco Parkview High School.
“We played hard and lost to a very good football team.”
The Pioneers ended Rasco’s first season with a 10-2 record, the second consecutive season in which he’s guided a team to that mark. His final team at Brownwood Victory Life also ended the season in this round with that record in 2011, while the Pioneers played for the state championship last season (they were known as Happy Hill then).
But a half a dozen turnovers prevented North Central Texas from advancing any deeper in this postseason. Such mistakes are difficult to overcome against even an average team, much less the state’s third-ranked team.
The Pioneers fumbled on their first play from scrimmage. The problems snowballed from there.
Lifegate, improving to 12-0, jumped out to a 35-6 lead after the first quarter. By halftime the mercy rule had taken effect thanks to a 48-16 second-quarter outburst.
Six-man football has a rule that states if a team leads by 45 points or more at halftime, or gets ahead by such a margin in the second half, the game is called.
Lifegate scored 48 points off of NCTA turnovers.
“Their spreadback is a very good athlete, and we had trouble containing him all night,” said Rasco. “He ran when he should and threw when he should, and we just couldn’t stop him.”
The Pioneers’ scoring highlights featured a pair of touchdown passes from Angel Tercero to Cole Rasco and a 45-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Daniel Nzeakor.
Defensively, NCTA was led by Cale Dodson with five tackles and a couple of sacks.
The game featured two of the state’s most potent offenses. Lifegate came in averaging 59.9 points and the Pioneers averaged 57.9.
Lifegate, in fact, topped the 80-point mark for a second consecutive playoff game. They opened the postseason with an 83-8 thrashing of Houston Texas Christian.
A major difference, however, was on defense. Lifegate also has one of the state’s top defenses, surrendering an average of 7.4 points with five shutouts. In three other games they limited opponents to a single touchdown.
In fact, only one other team scored more points against Lifegate than did the Pioneers. Defending state championship Fredericksburg Heritage holds that honor, losing 65-26 in the next-to-last week of the regular season.
That is the only game among the dozen they’ve played in which Lifegate has not won by the mercy rule. The Pioneers won seven games via the mercy rule this season, and ironically both of their losses were also under the rule.
Lifegate returned five offensive and five defensive starters from last season’s 6-6 team that advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
“Our kids never gave up and kept playing hard with intensity,” said Rasco. “Seguin Lifegate will probably meet (Wichita Falls) Notre Dame in the state championship game Dec. 8.
“I love these kids here at NCTA and am very proud of them.”
Notre Dame is the state’s No. 1 team and a District 2 mate of the Pioneers. They handed North Central Texas its only other loss of the season, 64-18 in Wichita Falls on Oct. 12.
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Lifegate 83, Pioneers 22
NCTA 6 16 – 22
Seguin Lifegate 35 48 – 83
Rushing – Josh Torres 8-41.
Passing – Angel Tercero 9-23, 108 yards, 2 TDs, 1 interception.
Receiving – Cole Rasco 2-48, 2 TDs; Torres 2-32; Caleb Finley 5-28.
Tackles – Tercero 6, Torres 6, Cale Dodson 5, Jared Dodson 5, Elias Fekadu 5.
Sacks – C. Dodson 2.
Daniel Nzeakor 45-yard kickoff return for TD.