Trinity pulls out another close one to reach final

WACO, Texas — In the prize fight of Class 5A Division I undefeated powers that was Euless Trinity vs. Round Rock Stony Point, defending state champ Trinity had the knockout punch ready for just the right moment.

Coach Steve Lineweaver said his coaching staff put a specific fourth-and-5 play in the game plan as early as last Sunday. In the fourth quarter of Saturday's state semifinal game at Baylor's Floyd Casey Stadium, Trinity faced a fourth-and-4 that was as critical as they come.

Lineweaver called the play, and Trinity do-it-all athlete Brandon Carter made it work, throwing a reverse pass complete to Nila Kasitati. It gained 20 yards and a first down that helped whittle away the remaining time as the Trojans grasped a 28-24 victory over the Tigers.

Carter had been the decoy on the play called "the tinker" earlier in the game, once when Terrence Tusan faked the reverse and ran 80 yards deep into Stony Point territory.

So the Tigers were primed for the bait-and-switch.

"We ran the tinker every time and they fell for it every time," Carter said. "We just came back with it and said they were going to go with our running back and he just gave it to me. I just found Nila. We trust him, and he caught it."

Carter rushed for 120 yards on 12 carries, including a 13-yard run in the third quarter that pushed Trinity ahead, 21-17 — a lead the Trojans would not relinquish.

Tusan added a 25-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter as Trinity (15-0) stretched its lead to 28-17.

But the Trojans likely figured Stony Point (14-1) had one more charge remaining. Trinity defeated the Tigers, 35-28, in this same stage of the playoffs a year ago, when Trinity went on to claim the state championship.

"We thought it was [like a state title game] going in," Lineweaver said. "If we thought any less of it, we wouldn't have won. We had to go into it like this is the last game of the season. We'll worry about regrouping later."

Indeed, Stony Point came back with a big gainer on the ground.

On third-and-1 from the Trinity 48, Tigers running back Jihad Johnson burst into the open for a 48-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the game, cutting Trinity's lead to 28-24.

Stony Point forced a three-and-out on Trinity's ensuing possession and took over in Trojan territory at the 49.

The Tigers marched inside the Trinity 5 as quarterback Aaryn Sharp completed a 29-yard pass to running back Stephen Williams and the Tigers' other runner, Sam Kelley, plowed ahead from there.

But the Trojans defense caught Kelley in the backfield on second-and-goal from the 4 and Kelley fumbled out of bounds at the 9. Stony Point attempted to inch closer with a field goal, but kicker Kory Leis, who hit a 46-yarder going the other direction with the wind in the first quarter, missed wide right from 28 with 7:13 to go in the fourth quarter.

Stony Point would not get another chance on offense.

Trinity built a 12-play drive that took the Trojans from their own 20 to inside the Tigers' 5. It ended with Carter taking snaps in the victory formation and running out the last few ticks of the clock.

"We knew we had to waste that clock," Tusan said. "If they got the ball back, we knew they might have the energy to score so we just held up the ball and drove it down."

Stony Point came the closest to stopping Trinity when running back Tevin Williams was stopped for a gain of 3 on third-and-7 from the Stony Point 37.

But that just set up Trinity's well-executed fourth-down play as Carter came around on a reverse, took the handoff, rolled out to his right and passed to Kasitati.

"I was going to pass it the whole time," Carter said. "I knew if I would have run I would've got the four yards. But I was going to pass it the whole time. Anything you throw to [Kasitati] he can catch. All week in practice I threw crazy balls to him."

With the win, Trinity's 28th consecutively going back to early in the 2009 season, the Trojans advance to play Pearland in the 5A Division I state championship game on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Chad Conine is a freelance writer based in Waco.