Fort Bend Marshall 47, Huntsville 43 Achane powers Buffs into state semifinals
Fort Bend Marshall’s first play epitomized the day. Huntsville’s defense is sturdy; Marshall’s skill guys are stupendous.
Huntsville forced a fumble on the play, but quarterback Malik Hornsby scooped it and scrambled 10 yards for a first, and the Buffalos went on to score on their first three series en route to a hard-fought 47-43 win Thursday night at Cy-Fair FCU Stadium in the Class 5A Division II Region III final.
The regional championship is the first in four tries for the undefeated Buffalos (14-0).
Huntsville ended its season 12-2.
The Hornets were in the fourth round for the first time since 1989, when the also lost to Marshall — that is, the Marshall Mavericks (Fort Bend Marshall opened in 2002), who they beat last week.
The Marshall Buffs will face Port Lavaca Calhoun or Corpus Christi Calallen next week in the state semifinals.
They were dangerously close to another disappointing exit in the fourth.
Huntsville, which climbed out of a 20-7 halftime hole last week, took its first lead Thursday on a 64-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Southern to Jaylon Griffin with 2:31 left in the game.
Then destiny came calling.
The Buffalos were down to their last gasp, facing fourth-and-12 with 33 seconds left and a 43-40 deficit, when a play of desperate beauty unfolded — Hornsby took a snap, handed to Korey King, and he barely delivered a reverse to Devon Achane, around Texas pledge T’Vondre Sweat in the backfield.
Then Achane, with the defense bearing down, stopped and threw downfield into a crowd, and Dalevon Campbell somehow came down with the ball, then broke two tackles for a 47-yard game-winner.
Antonio Brooks’ interception on Huntsville’s final series sealed the win.
Achane was unstoppable early.
He provided the first three touchdowns and a 20-0 first-quarter lead on runs of 43 and 1 yards, and an 86-yard touchdown reception in which he took a short pass from Hornsby on the left sideline, skipped around a defensive back, then sprinted down the sideline to complete a brilliant first quarter.
He had three carries for 47 yards and two scores, and two catches for 96 yards and one touchdown before the second quarter.
The Buffs were off and running — but one bad play tripped them up.
After Huntsville’s defense forced a rare punt by Marshall on a series that seemed doomed from the start, the snap sailed over the punter’s head, and all he could was bat it out of the end zone for a safety.
The Hornets rode the momentum to touchdowns on their next two possessions.
Southern’s 6-yard run three plays after the safety cut the deficit to 20-9, and Miles Tatum answered a Hornsby touchdown with a 4-yard scoring grab to pull within 27-16 at halftime.
And just like last week against the other Marshall, the Hornets kept coming in the third.
While the Huntsville defense, led by Sweat, was stifling the speedy Buffs, its offense put up 10 more points — 17 unanswered overall — and pulled within 27-26 on a 27-yard field goal.
Then the Buffs finally came back to life.
Achane’s 48-yard touchdown run extended the lead to 33-26 and a determined 17-yard run by Hornsby made it 40-26 heading to the fourth.
Achane had a passing touchdown, three catches for 95 yards and a score, and 15 carries for 112 yards and three touchdowns. Hornsby threw for 184 yards and one score, and rushed for two, and the Buffalos had 437 total yards.
Southern threw for 244 yards and three scores, and Griffin had five receptions for 113 yards.