Grace Community had just gone ahead by 20-13 over archrival Bishop Gorman in the fourth quarter.
The game’s balance was up in the air, and just like that a pass was thrown up in the air.
Crusaders coach Coby Gipson often talks about the four or five plays in a game that decide the outcome. This was one of them.
On a wet night when grip on the ball was precarious, Cougars senior Blake Holbrook snatched an interception with 7:41 to play and returned it for a touchdown en route to Grace’s 34-13 victory on Friday.
“It was exciting to see a senior that’s been in the program that’s worked as hard as he has on Senior Night to have something like that as a defensive back, it’ll be something he’ll always remember,” Grace coach Mike Maddox said.
Gipson said he remembers Holbrook well from his time as a Cougars assistant.
“At that point it was going to come down to who makes a big play and they made a big play. It was a great play by Blake Holbrook, an outstanding young man.
“That’s one of the four or five plays it turned on and they were able to make the play and ultimately win the game.”
The outcome sent Grace (9-1, 6-1) to second place in TAPPS D-II District 2 while Gorman (8-2, 5-2) finished in third for the second straight year.
The Cougars earned a home playoff game in the first round of the TAPPS Division II playoffs. They’ll host Houston Second Baptist (6-4) at 7 p.m. from Clyde-Perkins Stadium.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, head to south to face Houston Lutheran South (9-1), which tied for first with Second Baptist and Houston Northland Christian (9-1). Kickoff is also slated for 7 p.m. Friday.
This past Friday’s matchup was a defensive slugfest in the first half, with Grace taking a 6-0 lead into the break. Gorman made it 14-13 with a 69-yard touchdown pass from Michael Goodwin to Martin Guzman.
Goodwin, a senior, has now gone over 2,000 passing and 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight year.
Grace struck back with a 1-yard touchdown run by Mason Dacus early in the fourth before Holbrook’s big play. Quarterback Chris Wilhelmi capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown run of his own to punctuate his 170-yard rushing performance.
“That was a good ballclub we were playing and it just made it exciting to accomplish enough goals that winning took care of itself,” Maddox said.
Wilhelmi, in his first year under center, has thrown for 1,966 yards and run for 1,081, meaning he’s likely to join Goodwin in the 2,000-1,000 club this week.
For the second straight year, the playoffs pit District 2 (East Texas and Dallas) against District 4 (Houston). Of the eight playoff teams from those districts, three have one loss and another two have two losses.
“I think it’s definitely the toughest side of the bracket,” Maddox said. “Whoever comes out of this side of the bracket will definitely have weathered some tough ball games and proven themselves to be a worthy opponent for the state championship.”
The other side of the bracket includes District 1 (Fort Worth and West Texas) against District 3 (Central and South Texas) with three nine-win teams, all from District 1.
Though Gorman may have lost to its rival and earned a tougher draw, including a lengthy road trip to Houston, the Crusaders aren’t dwelling on it. Immediately after the Grace game, the TKG seniors stepped up with a message to the team:
“We’ve been down this path before,” Gipson said of the message. “We know what it’s going to take, we’re ready to embrace the challenge and go to Houston and play our hearts out for each other.”
TAPPS Division II Playoffs
Austin Hyde Park (8-1) at Fort Worth Christian (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday
Arlington Grace Prep (6-4) at Austin Regents (5-4), 6:30 p.m. Friday
Dallas Parish Episcopal (9-1) at San Antonio Holy Cross (7-2), Saturday
San Antonio Cornerstone Christian (4-5) at Grapevine Faith Christian (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday
Houston Second Baptist (6-4) at Grace Community (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday, Clyde-Perkins Stadium
Frisco Legacy Christian (7-3) at Houston Northland Christian (9-1), Saturday
Bishop Gorman (8-2) at Houston Lutheran South (9-1), 7 p.m. Friday
Sugar Land Fort Bend Christian (7-3) at Dallas Christian (9-1), Saturday