Inspired kicker lifts Trinity past Heritage in OT

BEDFORD, Texas – When Euless Trinity kicker Austin Lopez ran onto the field in overtime Friday, he said his confidence was unshaken by the pressure of the situation he found himself in his first year as a starter.

He summoned his courage from the memory of his grandfather, who recently passed away.

“I just wanted to do it for my grandpa,” Lopez said. “I play for him. I thought I couldn’t miss. He was just like a dad to me. I lived with him and he always wanted to come watch me play football.”

Lopez hit a 37-yard field goal in the first possession of overtime to give Trinity the lead and eventually the win over District 6-5A rival Colleyville Heritage, 38-35, at Pennington Field.

While he said he had never had a kick in football with that much riding on his leg, he’s no stranger to big time plays on a different kind of football field.

“He did drill it, didn’t he? It was a beautiful kick,” Trinity coach Steve Lineweaver said. “He’s had a lot of pressure kicks in soccer and made a lot of goals, so we had an eye on him. We wanted to know what he would do in a close game and, boy, he split them.”

Not only has Lopez impressed his coaches with his kicking abilities in just four games of work, he’s made his mark on coaches at the next level with a scholarship offer form UT-San Antonio in his possession.

Friday night, Colleyville Heritage’s offense also made an impression on Trinity, gaining 375 yards of total offense, all through the air.

Defensive back Terrell Williams said Heritage (4-1, 2-1) was by far the best passing offense Trinity (5-0, 3-0) has faced in 2011, and Lineweaver agreed the game was a wake-up call for his secondary.

“We needed the work,” Lineweaver said. “We needed to go against something like that. There are going to be passers down the line who are going to throw like that. We were on our heels a little too much and looking around, and we need to be on our toes.”

Heritage’s game plan the entire night was to get the ball in the hands of its play-making receivers, including running back Landon Sherman on short dump passes and screens, and let the athletes do the work on the outside.

Sherman accounted for two of Heritage’s touchdowns off short catches and runs.

Heritage had opportunities to win or extend the game but missed on a 47-yard potential winning field goal as time expired and a 40-yard field goal in overtime.

Trinity traded blows with Heritage all night with its powerful ground game, led by Joel Kimpela, who rushed for over 200 yards and scored one touchdown.

Quarterbacks Joel Sullivan and Matt Hawkins filled in again for injured starter Kailahi Kautai, who sat out his second consecutive game.

Trinity now has the edge over Heritage in the district race and also knows it has an edge if another game comes down to the line with Lopez’s leg and determination to be successful for his grandfather.

“I have a cause and I have experience now,” Lopez said.