As Friday, Nov. 22, began, the Jesuit Football team was preparing to go up against Longview Highschool. As the defending state champions, Longview’s record was 11-0. They were predicted to handily beat the Rangers and go far in the playoffs which Jesuit was not even supposed to make.
As the game went on, however, the Rangers defied every expectation. When the clock finally ran down to zero, the score was 27-25. And so, the Ranger’s historic playoff run began.
The next game was against Klein Collins High School and was potentially record-breaking as the Rangers had never gone past the third round of the UIL playoffs in school history. All eyes were on the Jesuit football boys, playing under the lights of Baylor University’s stadium.
The boys, their parents and their fans were still riding high from the last win and praying it was more than just a stroke of luck. Anything could happen, and there were no expectations because they had already been exceeded.
The Rangers started the game strong with a 91-yard drive, finished by senior E.J. Smith with a nine-yard touchdown run. The defense then held off Collins and forced them to punt.
Smith proceeded to score a 95-yard touchdown reception to put the Rangers up by two touchdowns. Collins came back with a touchdown, and the Rangers led 14-7 to start the second quarter.
The second quarter was tight, with both teams falling short of successful offensive runs. The Rangers got the ball on their own three-yard line, and Smith pushed through to give the Rangers a 21-7 lead going into the second half.
The second half was full of turnovers which the Tigers took advantage of scoring first to put them only a touchdown behind the Rangers. Jesuit drained the clock to keep their lead going into the fourth quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, Jesuit fans held up four fingers in solitude—the community hoping the boys could hold on to their lead. But Collins came back to tie the score at 21-21. The stadium was tense as the clock rolled down, both sides of the stadium hoping their team could make one more touchdown.
Finally, senior quarterback Rance Holman threw a breakout screen pass to senior Christian Allocco for a 37-yeard gain. Smith then finished the drive and led the Rangers to a lead of 28-21. Collins tried one last attempt to stay in the game, but sophomore defensive back Robert Fitzgerald picked a pass off, and the crowd went crazy. This led the Rangers into their first fourth-round playoff game.
The next game was against Westfield, and after speculation, the game was held in Houston at NRG stadium. Despite the long drive, Jesuit fans packed the stadium in support of the boys who had gone further than any other Jesuit football team
The game started off positively for the Rangers with Westfield’s first pass intercepted by senior Jack Barton. Barton carried the ball 26 yards to give the Rangers an early lead. After that, Westfield came back strong with a 64-yard rush to tie the game followed by a 53-yard pass to gain a lead.
Rance Holman then fumbled the ball, which Westfield took advantage of and gained a lead of 21-7. The Rangers fought back, though, and Smith was able to rush for a touchdown before the first quarter ended, bringing Westfield to only a one-touchdown lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Ranger’s defense fought hard in the second quarter, providing opportunities that the Rangers offense just could not capitalize on. After a frustrating few minutes, senior Ethan Lane intercepted the ball and put the Rangers back on track. Smith proceeded to run to tie the game at 21-21. The Rangers couldn’t hold on long though as West Field scored again to take the lead at 28-21 going into the half.
Both defenses were rock solid going into the third quarter, letting nothing slip by. The Rangers entered the fourth quarter still a touchdown behind. The offense finally got through the Westfield defense. Holman threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to junior Charlie Cook to tie the game at 28-28.
Westfield received the ball but was shut down by Jesuit’s defense. They were forced to take a field goal. The crowd held its breaths as it was the last few moments, and every point mattered. The ball flew just left of the goal post, and Westfield missed its chance to take the lead followed by a cheer from the Jesuit stands. The refs called a false start penalty, however, and West Field was able to retake the kick. They made it the second time giving them a 31-28 lead.
The crowd still hoped for a comeback from the Rangers. But with 2:45 seconds left, Westfield intercepted the ball, and a 61-yard touchdown put Westfield up by 10. The game ended 28-38, and the Rangers historic season had ended. But it was not all for nothing as seniors on the team revealed.
Senior Christian Allocco who played defensive back for the Rangers said how much the team believed in each other throughout the season. “Nobody believed we would ever get as far as we did in the playoffs, except for us. We all knew what we were capable of, and we proved all the doubters wrong. I love all of my teammates like family and we set the foundation for the young guys; it’s their turn to take over,” he said.
Senior defensive back Jack Barton described his last Jesuit football season as “a blast.” He said, “Our team chemistry, leadership and tenacious attitude just blended really well and, as a result, we had a team unified in a singular belief, playing for one another every single play. I can personally say that, without my teammates, this season wouldn’t be nearly the same. They made the season fun and engaging and made 6 a.m. practices worth it.”
Senior Ford Buckner, Jesuit’s outside linebacker, also described the teams incredible unity. “The team’s success represents the greatest chemistry I’ve ever witnessed between teammates. Our coaches, senior leaders and underclassmen operated as one supportive unit with each player serving a critical role in gameplay, preparation and team spirit. Needless to say, we left a lasting legacy that we know our underclassmen will carry on next season. We seniors can’t wait to come support our team again next fall,” he said.
The Rangers’s remarkable, record-breaking season and the unforgettable experiences of their senior players attest to the fact that this 2019 season will be a cherished one in Jesuit’s football history and will set an example for all teams to follow.
Courtesy of The Dallas Morning News