Late defensive stands allow Private to rally past Public, 41-38, in Don Hardin Texas Bowl

Santa Anna’s Michael Valencia (25) was one of four local players, along with Ty Mann of Richland Springs and David Woods and Justin Howard from May, to compete for the Public School All-Star Blues in Saturday’s 41-38 loss to the Private Reds in the second annual Don Hardin Texas Bowl held at Zephyr ISD Stadium.

ZEPHYR — Trailing by 11 points with just under six minutes remaining in the second annual Don Hardin Texas Bowl, the Private School All-Star Reds turned to their defense to pull a stunning comeback against the Public School All-Star Blues.

The Reds generated touchdowns on each of their final two drives, while stopping the Blues inside the 10-yard-line twice en route to a 41-38 victory Saturday night.

Private trailed the entire game until 2:29 remained as Clark Martin of Dallas Covenant scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a 60-yard reception from William Simmons, also from Covenant.

The play was a simple swing pass into the right flat, but Martin balanced his way down the sideline, bouncing off a couple of attempted tackles. At midfield, Martin broke back across the grain and into the open, pulling up at the 20 to elude a diving tackle attempt. Martin then strolled into the end zone the rest of the way. Sammi Massaquoi of Abilene Christian added the two-point kick, and the Private squad found itself in uncharted territory — ahead.

The Public squad needed to march 60 yards in just over two minutes, and the drive began with a 28-yard completion from Water Valley’s Kellan Kirkland to Throckmorton’s Nathan Riley, who was voted the defensive player of the game.

Later, facing a fourth-and-19 at the Reds’ 36, Kirkland connected with Jared Cotton of Ira on a 22-yard gain that moved the ball to the Private 14. A 5-yard reception by Garden City’s Austin Odom advanced the ball to the 9, and May’s Justin Howard rumbled 3 yards to the Reds’ 6 on third and goal.

With 21 seconds left and a chance to pull out the victory, Blues’ quarterback Bryson Oliver of Throckmorton was sacked on fourth-and-goal by Colby Boozer of Dallas Covenant — the game’s offensive MVP — which sealed the improbable victory for the Private squad.

The Reds’ first goal line stand occurred with the Public squad in front, 38-33, and looking to put the game away with just over three minutes left.

The Blues advanced the Private 3-yard-line, but could not power the ball into the end zone on three consecutive carries. Public head coach Ty Keith of Happy opted to attempt a 20-yard, four-point field goal, which would have pushed the Blues in front by nine points, or two scores. The field goal attempt by Robert Lee’s Will Howard was blocked, however, and the momentum swung to the Reds, never to return in the Public squad’s favor.

Four local athletes competed for the Public Blues as Richland Springs’ Ty Mann rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 38 yards; Santa Anna’s Michael Valencia returned a pair of kicks and carried the ball once for 2 yards; May’s Justin Howard rushed for 30 yards on three carries and chalked up a couple of tackles; and fellow May Tiger David Woods manned the offensive and defensive lines, both opening and filling holes.

Public jumped out to a 16-0 advantage at the 4:14 mark of the first period, holding Private to 4 yards with a turnover over its first two possessions.

Oliver threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Gordon’s Seth Wheeler to open then scoring, then Oliver later connected with Garden City’s Juan Bustos on a 22-yard scoring toss.

The Reds closed the gap to 16-13 with 5:41 left in the first half as Martin scored on runs of 1 and 10 yards.

The Blues extended their lead to 22-13 at the 3:17 juncture on a 7-yard touchdown run by Mann, but the Reds trimmed the deficit to 22-21 at halftime as Martin scored on another 1-yard carry with 13 seconds left before intermission.

With 4:04 left in the third period, Public stretched its advantage to 30-21 on a 13-yard touchdown carry by Cotton, but Private answered with an 8-yard touchdown run by Boozer, making the score 30-27 with 3:11 to go in the third.

The final points for the Public squad came with 8:30 left in the game on a 1-yard dive by Cotton.

Private reduced the deficit to 38-33 with 5:44 remaining on a 41-yard scoring toss from Simmons to Massaquoi.