Great SW rally is denied in OT

Ron Howell
Sports Editor

Friday’s season finale at Mustang Bowl wound up as another Sweetwater defeat, capping a 1-9 campaign.
But to the local fans witnessing the 41-34 overtime loss to Monahans, it provided a look into what should be a much better future.
The Mustangs, who trailed 21-0 early on and were still down 34-21 heading to the fourth quarter, stunned the Loboes by sending the contest into overtime with two touchdowns before Monahans — after missing a short field goal try to win it at the end of regulation — pulled out the win in OT.
The Loboes (3-3 district, 5-5 for the season) are in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed from District 1-4A, D-II after they barely survived Sweetwater’s rally.
The start was hardly what the Mustangs hoped for as Monahans roared to a 21-0 lead over Sweetwater in the first 9:07. But the blowout never quite materialized as the Mustangs were able to regain their footing on two TD passes from Leo Holsey to Markus Meneses, as well as a nice defensive stand and key penalties that allowed Sweetwater to fight its way back to contention.
Holsey hit Meneses with scoring strikes that went for 33 and 30 yards, cutting the lead to 21-14 in the latter stages of the second period. However, Monahans seized back control with :07 left as quarterback Brandon Vasquez threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Peyton Adams for a 14-point (28-14) lead at intermission.
But the double-digit advantage didn't last long beyond halftime.
Sweetwater recovered a Loboes fumble on the second offensive play of the second half, and went on another scoring drive ending with a 29-yard Holsey pass to Daiman Atkins to get the deficit back down to seven. Monahans scored on another Vasquez-to-Adams pass to make it 34-21, but the Mustangs had not one but two answers after they recovered a fumble to end the third quarter.
Holsey hit Meneses for completions of 31 and 43 yards, then hit Elijah Reyes for an apparent TD, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty. But on fourth-and-11 from Monahans 12, Holsey looked to pass but instead ran to the end zone to cut the lead to 34-28.
And there was plenty of time for more offensive fireworks after the defense got it back with 6:24 left.
Punter Darian Carr kept the chains moving with a first-down run off a fake punt on fourth-and-3 from the Mustang 31. After that, Alex Gallegos ripped off runs of 12 and 21 yards. After a penalty, Holsey’s 29-yard run on a flea-flicker to and from Andres Neri got it to the 13. And from there, Holsey hit Reyes for the TD with 2:03 left. But it stayed 34-34 after the PAT sailed wide, Neri's only miss of the evening on five kicks.
The Loboes then drove from their 32 to the Mustangs 8-yard line and called a timeout with :03 to play in regulation to set up a 25-yard field goal to win it. However, that kick also failed, forcing the teams to overtime — Monahans' third OT game of the 2018 season but first for Sweetwater.
Monahans’ defense then finally ended it, following a 5-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the extra period. Sweetwater's possession from Monahans' 25-yard line lasted just two plays. Holsey, on second-and-8, went to the air but the Loboes' Andrew Franco picked the pass off to set off a celebration by the visitors.
But there was also plenty for Sweetwater to celebrate after nearly overcoming a 21-0 deficit.
"These kids were unbelievable tonight," coach Ben McGehee said.
"I couldn't be more proud of them. Our effort was amazing. We gave everything we had out there. Monahans just made one more play at the end to win it.
"We kept finding ways to come back. I thought our quarterback grew up tonight (freshman Holsey). The kid has got a great future because he's a competitor. It's going to be fun to see what happens here the next three years.
"But it was a great team effort. Alex ran hard and our offensive line played well. And our defense stepped up and made plays. I think some of these kids have a chance to be special next year.
It was the final game for 14 seniors on the roster — Gallegos, Meneses, Josh Camacho, Tony Padilla, Ryan Romero, Logan King, David Ehlert, Marshall Mills, Tayton Burnett, Justin Castereno, Max Rodriguez, Noah Garza, Eli Hendrix and Taiden Smith.
"We'll be bringing in some new guys next year," said McGehee. "But I think we've got a chance to be really competitive."

Pictured: Markus Meneses (24), who scored two touchdowns Friday, is shown catching one of them over a defender in the season finale with Monahans.
Photo by Kevin Wright