PALESTINE – A tale of two halves is how some will remember the 2019 home opener for the Palestine Wildcats. A 20-20 score at half ended in a 46-27 defeat to Waco Connally for head coach Lance Angel and his football team.
Maybe nerves and fatigue played a role in the outcome. Either way, Palestine will return to the practice field Monday to figure out this home loss.
Not surprisingly, the Cadets started the game by pounding the rock with all-state running back Jay'Veon Sunday. He helped fuel a 14-play drive, gaining 43 yards on seven carries. The drive capped with a 16-yard quarterback keeper by Kavian Gaither.
The Cadets attempted one pass on their opening drive, which laid the blueprint for how Palestine wanted to control this game. Unfortunately, their opening drive netted them negative eight yards, forcing a punt after a three-and-out.
Palestine was able to pin Waco Connally on their own 8-yard line. But a facemask penalty added 15 yards to the end of the punt. Starting their drive at the 23, the Cadets began marching down the field.
Seven plays in, the Palestine defense ramped up the pressure and greeted Waco Connally's quarterback with three red jerseys that forced a fourth-and-long.
Nine plays later, Palestine running back Jerimiah Davis was bullying his way into the endzone from 22 yards out to put the Wildcats on the board. The extra point was missed, a common failure for both sides throughout the night.
After stringing together a near five-minute scoring drive, Waco returned the favor in three plays. A 45-yard bubble screen set the stage for Sunday to pound it in from eight yards out. Waco led 14-6 with eight minutes to go until half.
Not to be outdone, Palestine marched down the field in four plays on perhaps the highlight of the night. A near interception for Waco Connally turned into a circus bobble catch for Marquis Thompson and a 69-yard sprint to the endzone. Palestine cut the lead to one.
The fast-paced action continued on the Cadets' end, as Sunday outran defenders for a 44-yard touchdown for his second touchdown of the game.
Palestine would get back to their clock-control offense on their final drive of the half. A 10-play drive ate up nearly the final five minutes of the second quarter. It nearly ended in three points, but fans were pleasantly surprised when the Wildcats caught Waco Connally on a fake and passed for a touchdown.
The well-executed drive sat the game at 20-a-piece and left 44 seconds on the clock for the Cadets. In addition, Palestine would get the ball to begin the second half.
Momentum soon shifted on Palestine's first possession of the second half. Once again, they took a risk by going for it on fourth down. They did not convert.
The next play saw Sunday busting through the middle of the defense on a 67-yard touchdown run. Down 26-20, from a missed extra point, the Wildcats next drive was stalled when two straight quarterback pressures forced them to punt. A near-blocked punt set the Cadets up in solid field position on Palestine's 43-yard line. They only needed three plays to extend their lead to 32-20.
Another three-and-out for the Wildcats forced an already weary defense to contain one of the state's best run offenses. Another quick four-play drive put the Cadets up 39-20, off of a 20-yard QB power play.
Both sides would add one more touchdown to their stat lines in the final quarter of play, before Waco Connally walked away with the second-straight victory over the Palestine Wildcats.