By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
STEPHENVILLE (August 26, 2016) — Hico used four touchdowns by Jacob Smith to overcome eight turnovers and a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit in a 28-22 win over rival Dublin Friday night at Tarleton’s Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers also had a touchdown called back and a two-point conversion fail on a close, controversial call. But Dublin had key penalties of its own, including a third-down pass interference to keep alive Hico’s game-winning touchodwn drive, and five turnovers highlighted by Hico’s Cooper Conlee intercepting a pass with 40 seconds remaining to seal the Tiger victory.
Dublin had won the previous two season openers between the local rivals, and seemed in control of this opener with a 22-7 lead entering the fourth quarter. But an eight-yard TD burst by Smith, his second score, cut it to 22-14 with 9:56 remaining, and Dublin missed a field goal that would have given the Lions a seemingly safe two-possession lead.
The Tigers weren’t done. Not with Smith on fire out of the backfield.
Fresh off a 1,000 yard season in 2015, Smith continued his impressive opener with a four-yard TD to cut it to 22-20 with 3:34 left. The two-point conversion run came up short in a close call, then Hico head coach Keith Wood made the boldest – and most successful – coaching call of the night.
The Tigers recovered an onside kick, appeared they may have it taken away by offsetting penalties, but then got to keep possession when one penalty was ruled to be after the play.
Dublin quickly put the Tigers in a third-down situation, but pass interference moved the chains. Another Dublin penalty helped set the stage for the final heroics by Smith, who plunged into the end zone to provide the winning points with 1:53 remaining.
Dublin had one final chance, but Conlee took it away when he ripped the second Tiger interception out of the sky, allowing Hico to kneel on the ball and safely run out the clock.
Senior quarterback Brady Moore got Dublin on the board first at the 8:59 mark of the second quarter, tossing a touchdown to Trask Brown after the teams traded numerous early turnovers, including a stretch of four takeaways in five plays.
Hico fumbled and lost the ball on the ensuing kickoff, but Dublin’s Christian Hernandez had a field goal partially blocked. Par for the course in the first half, Hico fumbled the first play and Dublin’s Jacob Stanley scored for the Lions, opening up a 14-0 lead with 6:48 left in the half.
Smith began his scoring parade with 2:55 left in the half, and Dublin led 14-7 at intermission. The lead expanded to 22-7 when Moore hit Gabe Garcia with a 12-yard TD pass, his third and final scoring strike of the night.
Both teams have tough tests ahead next week as Hico visits Tolar and Dublin hosts Albany.
TheFlashToday.com photos by RUSSELL HUFFMAN