For much of Friday night at Happy State Bank Stadium, the Wellington Skyrockets showed how they got to the Class 2A Division II state quarterfinals against the New Home Leopards.
But the Skyrockets were outdone by New Home’s quality as much as quantity, which means a lot more in December football.
Despite running 25 more plays than New Home, Wellington didn’t make the same impact. New Home used a couple of huge scoring passes to make the difference, as the Leopards eliminated the Skyrockets 35-20.
That, coupled with four turnovers, sealed Wellington’s fate in the biggest game of the season.
“We wanted a score and a stop right there out of half, and we didn’t get it done,” Wellington coach Greg Proffitt said. “(The Leopards) had a lot to do with that. I’m proud of our kids. We got down two scores then climbed back in it to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, but we just couldn’t get a stop.”
The offensive approach for the two teams couldn’t have been more different, as Wellington (12-2) ran a signature ground and pound approach effectively, and New Home (13-1) aired it out with huge results. Both approaches were effective, though, as it was tied 14-14 at halftime.
Wellington was stopped after taking the second half kickoff and the Leopards took over at their own 11. They immediately struck with a big play, as Brazos Beck hit Jackson Raines for their second big connection of the night, this one going for 89 yards as New Deal went up 20-14 and never looked back.
Beck, who was subbing for the injured Caleb Cook at quarterback, hardly looked like a backup, throwing for 308 yards and four touchdowns, with two each going to Raines and Brody Emert. Raines particularly torched Wellington’s secondary, with six catches for 228 yards.
“We saw some stuff on film where we felt we could take advantage of the secondary,” New Home coach Jon Ward said. “It’s a tribute to our quarterback, receivers and offensive line in executing it. I felt we were as athletic as them, but we ran away from them a couple of times.”
The Leopards ran for only 35 yards against Wellington, including minus 1 in the first half. But they went up 28-14 late in the third quarter when Beck ran a quarterback draw for a 22-yard touchdown.
Wellington didn’t attempt a pass in the first half, but the Skyrockets stayed in the game by throwing the ball in the fourth quarter. They marched down the field and pulled off some trickery when Braylon Tarver took a reverse and hit Bryant Tarver for a 21-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 28-20 with 7:51 left in the game.
However, that was Wellington’s last score of the season. The Skyrockets made two turnovers in the fourth quarter to destroy any chances they may have had.
“With our style of offense running the ball, you can’t put the thing on the ground the way we did,” Proffitt said. “(The Leopards) hadn’t thrown the ball all that much on any film we saw but they did a good job of that tonight.”
New Home clinched the game on Beck’s 16-yard scoring pass to Emert with 3:48 left in the game.
The Leopards made a statement right away, taking the opening kickoff and marching down the field. They converted a fourth-and-nine as Beck hit Emert on a 20-yard scoring pass fora 7-0 lead.
Wellington came back and went 75 yards on 13 plays, ending the drive on Miguel Rincon’s 11-yard scoring run and Gumaro Rincon ran in the two-point conversion for an 8-7 lead.
The Skyrockets hurt themselves with two fumbles in the second quarter. Three plays after the first one, Beck hit a streaking Raines over the middle for a 78-yard scoring pass and a 14-8 lead for New Home.
Wellington tied the game late in the second quarter, as Gumaro Rincon scored on a 6-yard run but the two-point conversion attempt was stuffed and it stayed tied 14-14 going into halftime.