ATHENS â€” The Big Sandy Wildcats, behind the stellar play of senior quarterback James Ellis, kept their state title hopes alive with an exciting 25-24 bi-district victory over the Grapeland Sandies on Friday at Bruce Field.
Ellis completed 7 of 13 passes for 62 yards with two touchdowns, and rushed 22 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. His 3-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left tied the game, and junior kicker Matt Robinson avenged an earlier PAT miss by nailing the one his team needed the most.
Grapeland (4-7) took possession of its opening drive and marched down the field on a 10-play, 84-yard drive that ended on a 21-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Patrick Walker from Cameron Boyd. A missed point-after gave the Sandies a 6-0 lead with 5:20 left in the opening quarter.
After an Ellis fumble, the Sandies found themselves starting a new drive at the Wildcatsâ€™ 27. Facing a third-and-goal at the 6, Walkerâ€™s halfback toss was picked off by Taurus Keppard to end the threat.
Big Sandy took advantage of the turnover and put together a nice 12-play, 67-yard drive that ended when Ellis hooked up with Keppard from 4 yards out to tie the game at 6-6.
The Wildcats defense forced a three-and-out, and their offense received the ball at the Big Sandy 35. Ellis drove the Wildcats down the field as he engineered a 17-play, 65-yard drive that was capped off when he connected with Braden Smith from 3 yards out to give the Wildcats a 12-6 lead going into halftime.
Big Sandy had all the momentum going its way to begin the second half, and just when it appeared the Wildcats would take control of the game, Ellis was picked off by Grapelandâ€™s Walker who took the interception 54 yards to tie the game.
Big Sandy grabbed the lead back with 11:57 left in the fourth when running back Zay Gordon found the end zone to put the Wildcats up 18-12.
Grapeland answered with 9:40 left in the period on a 38-yard scoring pass from Boyd to Walker. A two-point conversion failed, knotting the score again at 18-18.
The Sandies took the lead for the second time, 24-18, when Boyd found a wide open Demelius Simpson who raced 78 yards to the end zone.
Big Sandy rallied again. Facing a fourth-and-10 at the Grapeland 44, Ellis ran for 10 yards to give Big Sandy the first down. The Wildcats continued to march down the field for the winning score. Big Sandy will meet Normangee next in the area round.