Seven Lakes defeats Cinco for first time, makes playoffs
The Seven Lakes football team had not been to the playoffs in four years entering its regular season finale Nov. 9 at Legacy Stadium. The Spartans had also never defeated the team across from them, falling every time to perennial postseason qualifier Cinco Ranch.
It might have worked to the Spartans’ advantage. Playing against the team trying to keep a 12-year playoff streak intact, Seven Lakes made the big plays and came away with a 40-10 triumph and a playoff spot.
“We were so loose, more loose than we’ve ever been,” Seven Lakes quarterback Michael Batton said. “This could be our last game. We’ve got nothing to lose. I didn’t feel any pressure, even though we’ve never beat Cinco. They were supposed to win and go to the playoffs. We had nothing to lose.”
Batton completed 12 of 28 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns, two to Jaden Embra and one to both David Ugwoegbu and Rasheen Green. Corey Anderson added 109 yards on the ground, while the defense and special teams combined to force four fumbles.
It all added up to one of the most significant wins the Spartans have had. They take a 6-4 record (3-3 in district) into a bi-district playoff against District 20-6A champion Ridge Point, for which first-year Seven Lakes coach Jimmy Hamon served as defensive coordinator.
It is an opportunity the Spartans will savor, particularly the seniors.
“There’s not words to describe it,” Ugwoegbu said. “We worked our butts off to get here. Me and a couple other players have had older brothers on varsity lose to Cinco over and over again. So for us to come through and beat them, it means the world to us for sure.”
Both teams missed opportunities after special teams miscues. Cinco Ranch (3-7, 3-3) fumbled the opening kick but Zach Blanchard blocked Seven Lakes a field goal attempt.
But Seven Lakes linebacker Parker Jones said the play helped set the tone for the evening. The Spartans showed an intensity lacking in the previous week’s loss to Morton Ranch.
“I kind of felt it off that first kickoff,” Jones said. “I felt the momentum. I felt the hit and I was kind of like ‘man, this is the team we’ve been waiting to show back up again.’ We haven’t seen that team since before the bye week.”
Near the end of the half, David Gbenda blocked a punt for the Cougars, recovered by Dylan Bala. But Gbenda was stopped at the goal line and the Cougars fumbled a hurried snap as time expired to send Seven Lakes into halftime up 24-10.
Big plays were in abundance in between. A 56-yard reception by Brannon King set up Cinco Ranch’s first touchdown, a two-yard plunge by Cam Harper with 6:36 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cougars stopped Seven Lakes on fourth down inside their own 30, but the Spartans scored on their next possession as Ugwoegbu turned third down into a 78-yard catch and run from Batton as time expired in the quarter.
Seven Lakes did cash in on a fumbled kick return moments later. Jones pounced on the loose ball, and Batton found Green in stride for a 20-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
The teams traded second-quarter field goals, with Seven Lakes’ Austin Angelo drilling a 40-yarder and Zach Gonzales making a 27-yarder, set up by a 30-yard catch from Trey Henderson and a third-down catch by Sam Sabarzo.
Seven Lakes needed two plays to extend its lead. Batton found Embra wide open down the seam for a 69-yard touchdown with 3:29 left in the half.
A pair of fourth-down stops helped the Spartans begin to pull away. Tiago Sumbo ended one drive inside the 30-yard line with a sack. Corey Johnson’s clutch pass breakup ended the next Cougars drive inside the 40.
Seven Lakes extended its lead to 31-10 in between, with a thrilling 66-yard scramble by Batton setting a Johnson touchdown run.