DUBLIN – In a Class A Division I state semifinal game that featured 1,157 yards of total offense and 25 touchdowns, the performance of the May defense in overtime catapulted the Tigers to their third state championship game appearance since 2013.
The third-ranked May Tigers outlasted the defending state champion Blum Bobcats, 92-86, in overtime Saturday night, tallying the final 14 points of the contest.
“There’s no quit in our kids, they fought ’til the end,” said May 17th-year head coach Craig Steele. “I’ve been in some overtime games, but not recently, and none with this much on the line. This is one of the best high school football games I’ve ever been a part of. The kids on both sides left everything out here. I told our kids this would be our closest game in the playoffs, but I didn’t think it’d go to overtime, and again that’s a credit to Blum. They had a heck of a game plan and took it us.”
Trailing 86-78 following a 25-yard scoring toss from Koby Clickscales to Iven Rawls with 4:08 left, the Tigers pulled even at 86 with 3:43 remaining in regulation on a 1-yard plunge by Korbin Bass, set up by a 48-yard scamper from Kaden Halk, and a tying two-point kick by Kaysen King. Then, on the first snap of overtime, Halk – who finished with 302 yards and five touchdowns on the ground – scored on a 25-yard carry to put all the pressure on Blum.
“That last score, the fans’ reaction, definitely got the momentum up for sure,” Halk said. “This is most intense game I’ve ever played. It was definitely nerve racking. I’m just so overwhelmed I don’t know what to say.”
Steele said of the final go-ahead touchdown, “I think it’s always big to score quick from a momentum standpoint, the other team puts their head down a little bit.”
May was unable to max out on potential points, however, as the two-point kick attempt was blocked, which gave Blum the chance to snatch the victory with a touchdown and a conversion. But the Tigers answered with their best defensive effort of the entire contest.
Clickscales, who rushed for 248 yards and six touchdowns for Blum, was stuffed for a pair of 2-yard runs by May’s Hayden King on first and second down. Then, facing third-and-11, King was able to swat a pass attempt by Blum’s Trey Bullard. Facing fourth-and-11 at the May 21 with the season on the line, Bullard again dropped back to pass and was harassed once more. Backpedaling, Bullard dumped off a short pass behind the line of scrimmage to Tucker Willingham, who lost his footing and hit the ground – ending Blum’s bid for a repeat and sending May to state for the first time since 2014.
“What had been happening was we played a lot of defense that was a lot of man up,” Steele said. “The weak-side corner was triggered every time the tailback got the ball so we wound up rushing three and we didn’t have enough pass coverage. Going into overtime we talked about when they go tailback option straight back to just rush two. So our coverage was better which made him hold the ball, which led to us making those stops there at the end.”
Tiger defender Isidro Salinas added, “Before overtime I was told to get the team together and set them straight. I really didn’t have to say anything, they knew they had to man up and they got big and played how they play.”
May (13-1) yielded 606 yards of total offense – 306 rushing and 300 passing to Blum (9-4) – while the Tigers finished with 551 yards – 488 on the ground and 63 through the air. May created two Blum turnovers, while the Bobcats took the ball away from the Tigers on three occasions.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to defensively,” said Steele, whose team defeated a short-handed Blum squad 74-28 earlier this season. “We had a game plan we thought was good and that’s a credit to Coach (Cooper) Thornhill and his staff because they punched holes in it all night.”
Halk led the charge for May with his second straight 300-plus-yard effort on the ground, following last week’s 337-yard, 7-touchdown effort in a 72-38 win over Leakey. Rory Bustamante racked up 168 yards and three scores and completed all four of his pass attempts for 63 yards and two more touchdowns before exiting the game in the second half with a lower left leg injury.
“I’ve talked about our depth all year and we had every running back of the six main varsity running backs play tonight,” Steele said. “All the kids came in and did the job that was asked of them at the time and we got it done.”
May led by as many as 10 points twice in the first quarter, but trailed Blum by a 30-24 count at the end of the period. From that point on, no team led by more than eight points the rest of the contest, and the advantage switched hands four times. The game was knotted at 52 at halftime, while the Tigers carried a 78-72 lead into the fourth quarter.
Tied at 72 after a 34-yard scoring toss from Bullard to Horn, May answered with a one-play drive – a 50-yard sprint by Halk – to give the Tigers a 78-72 lead with 43 seconds remaining in third period.
Blum wrestled away the momentum midway through the fourth quarter on an 8-yard run by Clickscales and a two-point kick from Kaleb Bratcher, which put May in an 80-78 hole with 5:06 left.
May then turned the ball over on the next possession, and Blum needed just one play to cash on the 25-yard toss from Clickscales to Rawls. But the Bobcats missed the two-point kick, which allowed the Tigers to cling to life.
Blum converted 7 of 12 two-points kick on the night while Kaysen King drilled 7 of 13 for May.
Even at 52 at halftime, the Tigers scored the first points of the second half on an 8-yard carry by Salinas. Blum drew even at 58 on a 45-yard run by Clickscales; May went back in front 66-58 on a 31-yard carry by Halk; Clickscales’ 2-yard touchdown closed the gap to 66-64; and Halk’s 38-yard sprint stretched the lead to 72-64.
In the first half, May recovered a Blum fumble on the first snap and Bustamante followed with an 18-yard touchdown sprint for 8-0 lead 11 seconds into the contest. The rest of the first quarter scoring included a 62-yard kick return by Clickscales; a 33-yard scamper by Bustamante; an 11-yard carry by Clickscales; a 35-yard gallop by Bustamante; an 11-yard carry from Clickscales; and a 22-yard Clickscales sprint after May failed to cover a pooch kick.
Trailing 30-24 after one quarter, May drew even at 30-30 on a 34-yard pass from Bustamante to Halk eight seconds into the second period, which was set up by Blum’s second lost fumble of the contest. The teams then traded six touchdowns the rest of the half – a 46-yard pass from Bullard to Horn; a 58-yard kick return by Halk; an 8-yard scoring toss from Bustamante to Chris Flenniken after a Blum four-and-out; a 28-yard touchdown pass from Bullard to Horn; a 31-yard sprint by Halk; and a 70-yard kick return from Bullard.
With the victory, May will face No. 1 Sterling City (14-0) – a 48-40 overtime winner over No. 2 Borden County (10-3) Saturday night – at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the Class A Division I state championship. May hosted Sterling City in Week 2, as the Tigers came up on the short end of a 44-40 decision.
“This feels fantastic, but there’s no point in going up there and just being happy with being there,” Steele said. “We’re going to go and try and win it all for sure.”
May 92, Blum 86
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Blum 30 22 20 14 0 – 86
May 24 28 26 8 6 – 92
MAY — Rory Bustamante 18 run (Kaysen King kick), 9:49
BLU — Koby Clinkscales 62 kickoff return (kick blocked), 9:37
MAY — Bustamante 33 run (K. King kick), 9:24
BLU — Clinkscales 11 run (Kaleb Bratcher kick), 6:53
MAY — Bustamante 35 run (K. King kick), 4:00
BLU — Clinkscales 11 run (Bratcher kick), 2:25
BLU — Clinkscales 22 run (Bratcher kick), 2:15
MAY — Kaden Halk 34 pass from Bustamante (kick failed), 9:52
BLU — Braeden Horn 46 pass from Trey Bullard (Bratcher kick), 9:39
MAY — Halk 58 kickoff return (kick failed), 9:31
MAY — Chris Flenniken 8 pass from Bustamante (K. King kick), 3:46
BLU — Horn 28 pass from Bullard (kick failed), 1:21
MAY — Halk 31 run (K. King kick), 0:40
BLU — Bullard 75 kickoff return (Bratcher kick), 0:29
MAY — Isidro Salinas 8 run (kick failed), 9:22
BLU — Clinkscales 45 run (kick failed), 6:38
MAY — Halk 31 run (K. King kick), 6:30
BLU — Clinkscales 2 run kick failed), 3:07
MAY — Halk 38 run (kick failed), 2:02
BLU — Horn 34 pass from Bullard (Bratcher kick), 0:54
MAY — Halk 50 run (kick failed), 0:45
BLU — Clinkscales 8 run (Bratcher kick), 5:06
BLU — Iven Rawls 25 pass from Clinkscales (kick failed), 4:08
MAY — Korbin Bass 1 run (K. King kick), 3:23
MAY — Halk 25 run (kick failed)
First Downs 18 16
Total Yards 606 551
Rushes-Yards 46-306 37-488
Passing Yards 300 63
Comp-Att-Int 13-21-0 4-9-0
Fumbles Lost 2 3
Penalties-Yards 11-90 6-45
Punts 0 1-36.0
RUSHING: Blum – Koby Clinkscales 36-248, Armando DeHoyos 5-40, Trey Bullard 2-11, Iven Rawls 2-9, Tucker Willingham 1-(-)2. May – Kaden Halk 16-302, Rory Bustamante 11-168, Damien Salinas 2-20, Isidro Salinas 1-8, Korbin Bass 2-6, Hayden King 2-0, Blake Harrell 2-(-)7, Team 1-(-)9.
PASSING: Blum – Bullard 11-16-0 for 245, Clinkscales 2-5-0 for 55. May – Bustamante 4-4-0 for 63, Harrell 0-4-0, Halk 0-1-0.
RECEIVING: Blum – Braeden Horn 5-132, Willingham 5-99, Koleman Moore 1-30, Rawls 1-25, Clinkscales 1-14. May – Halk 2-35, Chris Flenniken 2-28.