Rockwall-Heath rallied from 21 points down in the first half and 18 points down in the fourth quarter, Everitt Gilbert scored five touchdowns, but Heath was unable to recover from four lost fumbles and the Sulphur Springs Wildcats (12-2) defeated the previously undefeated Hawks, 52-47, in a wild Region 2 Final Playoff game tonight at Texas Stadium.
The loss ends the spectacular season for Rockwall-Heath, which has only existed for four short years (13-1).
The Hawks had two last chances during the last three minutes of play to score and win, but lost the first opportunity when Hawk Matt Bielski fumbled a Wildcat punt after a ten-yard return at about the Hawks’ 30-yard line with just over two minutes left to play.
Then, after the Hawks defense stopped Sulphur Springs on four straight downs with about :50 seconds remaining, Hawks quarterback Drew Hollingshead was unable to complete a pass on four straight tries and, with less than :30 seconds remaining, Sulphur Springs took control of the ball and ran out the clock.
The Hawks played the game without star running back Kendial Lawrence, who injured his right shoulder in last week’s victory over Ennis. But the Hawks still amassed 550 yards in total offense, behind the running and receiving of Gilbert and passing of Hollingshead.
Gilbert rushed for 193 yards on 24 carries and caught nine passes for 98 yards, scoring his five TDs. He scored on runs of 4, 67 and 6 yards, plus caught two scoring passes from Hollingshead of 11 and 10 yards.
Hollingshead completed 16 of 27 passes for 254 yards, for three TDs and no interceptions. He also connected with Matt Bielski on a 36-yard scoring strike.
But in the end, the Hawks defense was not able to contain Sulphur Springs quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who completed 25 of 30 passes for 387 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also ran four yards and one yard for scores.
Nor were the Hawks able to overcome four lost fumbles.
The first came just two plays into the game, when Gilbert was hit and lost the ball after catching a pass at about the Heath 30-yard line. From there, Rollison took his team into the end zone in about 5 plays and the Wildcats were up 7-0 during the first three minutes of the game.
Another Hawk fumble soon after led to another 16-yard TD by the Wildcats, and, before Heath even had a first down, Sulphur Springs drove 90 yards for a third score and was up 21-0 near the end of the first quarter.
Back came the Hawks, with three straight TDs by Gilbert, while limiting the Wildcats to just one field goal. It appeared that Heath would be just three points down at halftime and could take over momentum of the game, but Rollison managed to lead his team to one more quick TD with less than a minute in the first half and took a 38-28 lead into the locker room.
Rockwall-Heath did manage to score 19 points in the second half while holding the Wildcats to just 14 points. But their rallies from both deficits just fell short.
The Hawks defense was led by David Tanner, who had eight tackles, and Austin Moss, who had seven tackles.
Backup running backs Dorian Lawry and Jesse Irokwe each played well, rushing for 72 and 36 yards, respectively.
Bielski caught five passes for 96 yards, and Cameron Wilson caught one pass for 15 yards.
Sulphur Springs played nearly a flawless game, with no turnovers and only one penalty for five yards.
In the end, it was more mistakes which cost the Hawks and ended their season.