There was a point in the opening half when Whitehouse led by 24 points and appeared on the way to a rout upset. There was a point in the second half when the Wildcats appeared on the verge of total collapse.
No matter the case, a certain player in maroon and white once again put his special talents on display in front of more than 12,000 people. No doubt there were plenty of oohs and aahs, so to speak, on Friday night at TMF Rose Stadium — something to which the state of Texas will be introduced when the playoffs arrive next week.
Much of them were for John Tyler star receiver Fred Ross and ferocious defensive lineman Tyus Bowser, who produced one of the most dominant pass rushes in recent memory — five sacks and numerous hurries. The others were for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who delivered a performance worthy of an overused word: heroic.
In perhaps the biggest game in WHS football history, Mahomes capped his breakout regular season with a showing that often times leads to an all-state outcome. While facing intense pressure from Bowser and Co., the junior kept his composure throughout a showdown that happened to have the outright District 16-4A championship on the line.
No matter the winner or loser, in this case the Wildcats fell 45-38 in dramatic fashion, Mahomes delivered in unforgettable fashion before an overflow crowd and under the brightest of Friday night lights. Running for his life on just about every snap, he completed 27 of 53 passes for 428 yards with five total touchdowns and only one interception — a desperation heave on the Wildcats’ final play of the night.
Mahomes did just about everything he could for the Wildcats, who raced ahead 24-0 in the first half and stayed in front until about five minutes remained in the fourth. No one could blame the multi-sport star for his only mistake of the game, a fumble that set up JT’s go-ahead score — another instance of Mahomes being harassed by the Lions.
His great plays outweighed it.
On one, Mahomes looked into the face of Bowser’s rush and lofted a 25-yard touchdown pass just before being driven into the turf of Earl Campbell Field. On another, he split a pair of defensive backs with a perfectly placed, 34-yard scoring toss.
This isn’t to say Mahomes enjoyed the best offensive performance of the night — JT quarterback Greg Ward and receivers Ross and Darion Flowers were right up there with him, evidenced by the Lions actually being the winning team and district champion.
But that trio didn’t perform under hardship like Mahomes — a performance by Bowser that conjured up memories in the press box of former JT All-American David Warren, who helped lead the Lions to national prominence in the 1990s. It became almost routine in the second half; Whitehouse snapped the ball out of the shotgun, Bowser came off his blocks and Mahomes went to work to keep the play — and seemingly himself — alive.
Sometimes he did. Sometimes it was virtually impossible.
Regardless, there was no debate about Mahomes wasting little time before making his presence known in the first quarter, moving the Wildcats down the field on their first drive in hurry-up fashion. But the final play of the drive — on which Dews caught a deflected pass and fumbled the ball out of the JT end zone — resulted in a touchback to give the ball back to the Lions.
That seemed to be a situation in which missed opportunities get in the way of upsets, but Mahomes quickly got the ball back when JT fumbled on the ensuing possession.
Mahomes took over from that point. But Bowser wasn’t far behind him.
Mahomes, a 6-3, 185-pounder who might be forced to make a decision between pro baseball and college football following high school, accounted for three touchdowns in the half to put the Wildcats up 24-0 in the second quarter. The third score was perhaps the finest pass of his career so far; the perfectly placed ball between double coverage into the hands of fellow junior Jaylon Dews.
The play will perhaps be a lasting image of Mahomes’ first season behind center, because its perfection fully represented the Wildcats’ pursuit of an undefeated campaign. The scary thing: Mahomes still has the playoffs and another season to hone his craft, which makes Whitehouse a legitimate contender.