Austin Flynn will never forget his first game back in Clyde Abshier Stadium in 17 years.
Deer Park High School’s new head football coach watched the Deer erupt for 41 second-half points, consuming a 23-point deficit in the process as the club stunned Clear Creek 52-48 Friday night.
The unlikely victory wasn’t assured until Coltin Bedford stepped in front of a Hunter Smith pass along the Deer Park sidelines with just seconds left. Smith, who threw for 151 yards and three touchdown passes, had rolled right on a fourth-down, do-or-die play but only found Bedford, who was mobbed by his teammates.
Smith was forced out of the pocket by such defenders as junior Hayden Berryhill.
“We called a play where I’m in the nose and their center is small and I just pushed him around and got back there,” said Berryhill, noting it was a big size advantage.
“You just ask your players to trust you and believe in you. The first half, we could have easily given in. So I basically give every bit of credit to the kids for hanging in there and trusting our staff and what we’ve done. They knew it. That’s nothing new with us. That sticks out to me more than anything,” Flynn said.
Quarterback Broc Weidner, who didn’t start because of a shoulder concern from the season opener, sparked the comeback when he threw touchdown passes of 61, 57, 44 and 40 yards, completing 14-of-22 passes for 310 yards and no interceptions.
Trailing 41-18 with 6:50 remaining in the third quarter, it looked like Flynn’s return to his ole stomping grounds was going to result in disappointment until the offense finished its last five possessions with touchdowns.
“A comeback like that for his first win. It was crazy,” said Weidner, who entered the game midway through the second quarter and the team trailing 21-8.
The game-winning score came from Marcus Molina on a 20-yard run with 1:49 to play. It was Deer Park’s first advantage on the scoreboard since the club was up 8-7 in the first stanza.
“I saw the hole and read the cut and wound up scoring the touchdown,” Molina said.
“As soon as I handed it off, I saw him cut and I’m yelling Marcus! It was the greatest feeling ever,” said Weidner.
“It was simply a run play. It wasn’t a special call, anything like that. The O-line did a heck of a job. The O-line just kept comin’ at them. I thought they were more conditioned than their D-line and kept at it. It also shows just how talented Marcus Molina is. He’s one of our most explosive, if not the most explosive player on the team,” Flynn said.
His scoring run capped a nine-play, 61-yard march to paydirt after the defense forced the Wildcats to punt the ball for a second straight possession.
Chewing up the clock with the running game, tailback Tyrek Saylor accounted for 28 of the 61 yards on five carries.
“I’d like to give a shout-out to the guys up front. They did a good job blocking all night. We just stuck with it. We didn’t give up. We kept fighting and we came out with a W,” Saylor said.
Michael Banda, who was one of seven players who caught passes, hauled in a big 10-yard pass during the winning drive on a third-down call. Two plays later, the Deer had their winning points.
“Coach came in at halftime and said, ’Whoever thinks we’re not going to come back, leave right now. We all walked in and came back and won,” Banda said.
Weidner, who got the second-half fireworks going with a 60-yard touchdown run on the very first play, began torching Clear Creek’s secondary with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Tylan Love. Alex Sanchez added the PAT to get the deficit trimmed to 41-25.
Love, the team’s returning Second Team all-district wide receiver, tallied five receptions for 144 yards, tops on the team.
After the defense got the ball back, Weidner found Molina with a screen pass that probably was only meant to move the chains but instead it turned into a 57-yard touchdown toss, reducing the deficit to 41-33 with 5:03 left.
“Probably midway through the third, it felt some momentum was shifting. If we could get some stops on defense, we could get back into it. The defense made two heck of some stops at the very end. They could have given in as well and they didn’t,” Flynn said.
But on the first play of the fourth quarter, Creek slowed down Deer Park’s new-found momentum with its last touchdown, a 25-yard toss from Smith to Peter Miller, creating a two-score difference again.
But it helped tremendously when the Deer’s offense needed just 30 seconds to get the deficit back to single digits. Weidner and Love hooked up for a beautiful 44-yard touchdown pass.
The team was 61 yards from the end zone but a 15-yard horsecollar penalty call after a Molina run of 12 yards deposited the team in Creek territory.
On its next possession, Deer Park skirted disaster when Weidner had to chase down a poor snap from the shotgun formation. Already deep in Creek territory at the 14, the team bounced back with Banda hauling in a 31-yard pass, a Weidner 15-yard run, before Clyde Bellow became the latest hero, securing a 40-yard touchdown pass with 8:04 remaining in the game.
But when the attempt at the two-point conversion failed, Creek fans were breathing a sigh of relief and the Wildcats still on top 48-46.
But when Creek desperately needed Weidner and Co. to idle on the sidelines, with the help of two penalties, they failed to do so. A 14-yard punt played into the offense’s hands and nine plays later, it’s safe to say that some of Flynn’s games as quarterback at Iowa State dropped a notch in the memorable games department.
“We were kind of down at halftime and wondering what happened. But we really turned the switch on in the second half to say the least,” Berryhill said.
FIRST DOWNS: Deer Park 23, Clear Creek 23
RUSHES-YARDS: Clear Creek 42-276, Deer Park 31-213
PASSING YARDS: Clear Creek 240, Deer Park 409
PASSES/ATTEMPTS/INTERCEPTIONS: Clear Creek 16-33-2, Deer Park 20-36-1.
TOTAL OFFENSE: Clear Creek 516, Deer Park 622