Style points were in short supply when Amarillo High hosted Abilene High late Friday afternoon at Dick Bivins Stadium, and for that matter, so were scoreboard points.
During the last week in October, though, all that counts is the latter category, which was a good thing for Amarillo High. And it meant that the Sandies are still firmly in the District 2-5A Division I playoff conversation.
In a game the Sandies likely won’t frame and hang on the wall, they used tough second half defense and a big play in the fourth quarter to seize momentum. They kept it up through Abilene’s last possession and held on for a 17-10 victory, assuring that next week’s final regular season game at Lubbock Monterey will mean something.
At 4-5 and 2-3 in district, the Sandies are in the middle of the district’s playoff scramble, which was the only thing that mattered at the conclusion of the first game of a rare Bivins doubleheader.
“I want to win by one more point and ultimately that’s all that matters,” AHS coach Chad Dunnam said. “It was a good, tough, physical football game by two good teams. I was so proud of the way our kids played and did not beat themselves. We showed a different level of physicality in the second half than we’ve shown this year.”
After trailing the entire first half, Amarillo High took the lead on the first play of the second half, when J.Q. Ervin took a pitch, found a hole in the right side and sprinted 58 yards for a touchdown to give the Sandies a 10-7 lead they never relinquished.
That was the first of two scoring runs in the third quarter for Ervin, who also ran 13 yards for a score to make it 17-7, a lead which seemed insurmountable considering the way the two teams were playing defense. The Sandies won despite being outgained by a 314-201 margin.
The defense kept Abilene (4-6, 3-3) at bay long enough for Ervin to score twice and put the Sandies ahead. In the second half, the Eagles only managed 73 yards against the Sandies.
That was a different tone from the first half, when the teams scored on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter as Abilene held a 7-3 halftime lead which seemed like it should have been bigger.
“I didn’t necessarily think we were getting outplayed,” Dunnam said. “Obviously we were struggling getting first downs, but I don’t have any problems with punt it and play defense. We were playing good defense, we just needed to start tackling better.”
Abilene cut it to 17-10 with 8:42 left in the game on Tristen Hall’s 26-yard field goal. After that, it was down to which team’s defense had the strongest will. Neither one buckled, but Amarillo High had the advantage with the lead.
The Eagles twice drove into AHS territory but were held on downs. On a fourth-and-15 with 38 seconds left, Brayden Henry hit Brelon Badon with an 11-yard completion, well short of the marker, clinching the game for the Sandies.
Early in the second quarter, Abilene drove to the Amarillo High 6 and faced a fourth-and-three and opted to go for it instead of kicking a chip field goal. The gamble paid off, as Bam Rashaw took a pitch and got around left end for a touchdown to make it 7-0.
Rashaw carried Abilene in the first half with 134 yards on 14 carries but had only 21 yards against the Sandies in the second half.
Amarillo High came back on the next possession after Mason Graham entered the game at quarterback, replacing Will Flaming. The Sandies got a pair of completions to Jameson Garcia to move inside the Abilene 10, and when the drive stalled, Micah Conger kicked a 24-yard field goal to cut it to 7-3.