Saturday, March 2, 2024

Rattlers fall short of state title

Still memorable season

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The Tolar Rattlers were in search of history Wednesday, Dec. 13 at AT&T Stadium. They were a part of it, but unfortunately on the wrong end as the Timpson Bears were making their own history.

In fact, Timpson quarterback Terry Bussey made history twice in the first half as the Bears went on to win the first state championship in program history, 49-7 over the Rattlers, who were seeking their inaugural title.

Despite the loss, the Rattlers (14-2) enjoyed the best season ever for the program. They eclipsed the 2022 squad that finished 13-1 and reached the state quarterfinals.

This was the first time for both Tolar and Timpson to play in a state final. The Bears had been eliminated in the semifinals each of the past three seasons.

“I’m so proud of these guys. They showed up from July 31 to Dec. 13 and went to work,” Tolar coach Jeremy Mullins said. “It was awesome. You dream of this moment.

“A lot of coaches never get to coach in this kind of game in this atmosphere. I’m so grateful to the players and our coaches for making this season so special.”

BIG PLAYS EARLY

Timpson (16-0) used a pair of history-making plays to take a 21-0 halftime lead.

Leading 7-0, Bussey - who has committed to play at Texas A&M - had back-to-back record-setting touchdowns.

On the first play following a Tolar punt by Brooks Stone that pinned the Bears at their own 3-yard line, Bussey found Dacorian Johnson, who broke through the Rattlers defense for a 97-yard TD. It was not only the longest scoring pass in 2A history, but in all classifications in a state final.

Then, after another punt by Stone that put Timpson on its own 4, on the second play of the possession, Bussey found a seam in the Tolar defense, did a tiptoe on the sidelines to stay in bounds, and raced 93 yards to the end zone. It was the longest scoring run in 2A history.

“You have a plan, but a guy like that, he’s made a lot of players miss,” Mullins said of Bussey. “In a game like that, you’ve got to click early and we didn’t.”

SECOND HALF BACKBREAKERS

It seemed the Rattlers were on the verge of getting back in the game when Stone recovered an onside kick to set them up at the Timpson 43. From there, with quarterback Isaac Blessing picking up 34 of the yards, they marched downfield, with Blessing scoring from a yard out to close the gap to 21-7 at the 8:10 mark of the third quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, however, Timpson's Amari Bruton returned it 78 yards. Just like that the Bears were back up by 21, 28-7.

On Tolar's next possession, a tipped pass on fourth down was intercepted by the Bears' Nate Scourton and returned 49 yards to the Tolar 6. On the next play, Bussey muscled his way into the end zone for a 35-7 Timpson lead with 4:32 left in the third.

JOINING ELITE COMPANY

The Rattlers accomplished something no public school football team has done in Hood County in almost six decades. Not since the 1966 Granbury Pirates has a public school team played for a state championship.

Unfortunately, like the Rattlers, those Pirates came up a game short.

“When you put it like that it’s really neat,” Mullins said. “This group of guys has been awesome.”

A MEMORABLE RIDE

The only way this season could have been more memorable for the Rattlers would have been to hoist the state championship trophy. Still, it was a season that provided many memories for the players to talk about for the rest of their lives

“I moved here my sophomore year and it’s been special,” senior linebacker Jaxon Riddle said. “I’ve never felt more at home with a team. I looked forward to waking up every morning and going to football.”

Senior quarterback Isaac Blessing added, “Even though we didn’t get the win, I’m glad I was with this team and I got to wear Tolar on my chest.”

Also, the team earned the right to play on the same field as the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL in one of the nation’s most famous sports arenas.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” Riddle said. “I never got nervous, never got excited, just didn’t believe it was happening.

“But it’s cool, a pretty cool stadium.”

Class 2A Division I state final

At AT&T Stadium, Arlington

Timpson Bears 49, Tolar Rattlers 7

Tolar                0   0  7  0 - 7

Timpson          7 14 21  7 - 49

Tim - Colton Carroll 43 pass from Terry Bussey (Tyler Lane kick)

Tim - Dacorian Johnson 97 pass from Bussey (Lane kick)

Tim - Bussey 93 run (Lane kick)

Tol - Isaac Blessing 1 run (Brooks Stone kick)

Tim - Amari Bruton 78 kickoff return (Lane kick)

Tim - Bussey 6 run (Lane kick)

Tim - Johnson 44 pass from Bussey (Lane kick)

Tim - Bruton 36 pass from Bussey (Lane kick)

Statistics

Team

First downs: Tolar 15, Timpson 15.

Rushes-yards: Tolar 53-157, Timpson 20-178.

Passing yards: Tolar 71, Timpson 311.

Caught-thrown-intercepted: Tolar 8-22-2, Timpson 12-15-0.

Punts-average: Tolar 6-38.2, Timpson 2-36.5.

Fumbles-lost: Tolar 0-0, Timpson 0-0.

Penalties-yards: Tolar 3-40, Timpson 4-20.

Third-down conversions: Tolar 6-of-19, Timpson 2-of-6.

Fourth-down conversions: Tolar 3-of-6, Timpson 0-of-1.

Total offensive plays: Tolar 75, Timpson 35.

Time of possession: Tolar 31:27, Timpson 16:33.

Individual leaders

Rushing

Tolar: Blessing 32 carries, 108 yards, TD; Garrison Nation 6-27; Peyton Brown 15-22.

Timpson: Bussey 10-155, 2 TD; Nate Scourton 2-19; Chris NIckleberry 4-16.

Passing

Tolar: Blessing 8-of-22, 2 interceptions, 71 yards.

Timpson: Bussey 12-15-0, 4 TD, 311 yards.

Receiving

Tolar: Brylen Feist 2 catches, 21 yards; Kelvin Murray 1-13; Nation 1-11; Matthew Behrens 1-9; Clayton Stembridge 1-9; Drake Owens 1-7; Brown 1-1.

Timpson: Johnson 6-187, 2 TD; Carroll 2-55; Bruton 2-46; Nickleberry 1-20; Scourton 1-3.

Punt returns

Tolar: Stembridge 1-38.

Kickoff returns

Tolar: Talan Culberson 3-50, Caden Pate 1-19, Stembridge 1-15.

Timpson: Bruton 1-78.

Tackles

Tolar: Braylen Rice 4, Jaxon Riddle 4, Owens 3, Stembridge 3, Ty McClure 3.

Timpson: Lane 17, JaCayden Adams 13, Baylor Kimbro 10, Scourton 8.

Sacks

Timpson: Lane, Adams, Scourton.

Interceptions

Timpson: Scourton 1 (returned 49 yards), Bruton 1 (no return).