By Chuck Reherman
Southwest Covenant’s quest to reach a second straight state finals came to an end Friday night, one game short of their goal.
Timberlake quarterback Ethan Jenlink passed for four touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Tigers to a 40-26 upset of the No. 1 ranked Patriots Friday night at Patriot Field.
It was a game at saw the Tigers, 9-3, take a 14-0 lead, but the Patriots rallied to a 20-14 lead late in the first half. Timberlake, though, shutout the Patriots in the second half and Jenlink passed for three touchdowns and ran for another to pull off the upset.
The loss ended a nine-game win streak and closed the SWCS season with a 9-1 record. The Patriots have gone 22-2 the last two years and have won 18 straight regular season games.
“We had some busts on defense in the second half and we couldn’t move the ball,” SWCS head coach Trey Cloud said. “We ran a few wrong plays, but we prepared the best we could all week. We had some players step up and sometimes it is harder to do in a big game line that.
“Timberlake is a good team,” he said. “They lost to Pond Creek by eight and that entire district is all about the same. We did what we could and we played a decent game. We just didn’t have the passing threat like we have had (with Ben Webb).
“The guys did a good job of battling back after we got down in that early hole. We had some attrition set in in a few spots and had a couple kids that had to come out. We knew we had to stay healthy in this game and we got banged up a little bit.”
Down 14-0, the Patriots got their offense on track after forcing a Timberlake punt. Tyler Kelly’s 11-yard touchdown run put the Patriots on the board, cutting the lead to 14-6 with 2:26 left in the opening quarter.
The defense stopped Timberlake again, this time after the Tigers came up short on a fake punt.
Bryson Ford connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass to Will Haas, then ran in the conversion to tie the game 14-14 with 1:48 remaining in the quarter.
The Patriot defense forced two turnovers by Timberlake, interceptions from Kelly and Haas, the second settin up the go-ahead touchdown.
Ford scored on a two-yard run five plays later to take a 20-14 lead with 2:04 left in the half.
“We did a good job of not panicking after we got down two touchdowns and did the things we needed to do to come back,” Cloud said. “I thought when we tied the game and then took the lead, we might get things turned around, but we just couldn’t get things going in the second half.”
The Patriots had a chance to add to their lead on their second possession of the second half. SWCS drove to the Tikberlake 31, but on a fourth down play, the Patriots came up short of the first down marker.
Timberlake tied the game seven plays later when Jenlink connected on a 17-yard scoring pass to Meric Judd. Judd passed to J.J. Pippen for the conversion that gave the Tigers a 22-20 lead with 4:18 left in the third.
A Patriot fumble was recovered by Dylan Schlup at the Covenant 28 yard line.
On a second down play, Jenlink connected with Judd again from 23-yards out to open a 28-20 lead with 27 seconds left in the third.
Another Patriot turnover, an interception by Devon Kent led to a seven-yard run by Jenlink and a 34-20 lead with 7:50 left in the game.
After the Tiger defense stopped SWCS on a fourth down play at the THS 31, Timberlake put together an 11-play, 69-yard drive that sealed the win.
Jenlink passed 12 yards to Judd for a touchdown to open a 40-20 lead with 1:14 left in the game.
The Patriots did put together a drive that cut the lead to 40-26 on a four-yard run by Haas with 38 seconds left in the game. Haas had a 22-yard run in the drive and also completed a 15-yard pass to Kelly that set up the score.
The Patriots tried for an onside kick, but Timberlake recovered the kick.
Timberlake had taken the lead on the opening series on a 15-yard Jenlink touchdown pass to Judd.
“We knew they would throw the ball a lot and we worked on it all week long,” Cloud said. “I was kind of disappointed with the lack of coverage and the little busts we had. That happens some time.
“We did get four interceptions, but we did turn it over three or four times,” he said. “Everytime it looked like we were going to get it going, we made a mistake that stopped a drive.”