DALLAS — The Newman Smith football team had far from a full deck for its District 6-5A Division I ballgame against Molina, and that depth was tested even further over the course of Thursday’s matchup.
Behind a momentous second half, the Trojans (2-3 overall, 1-2 district) still managed to find the district win column for the first time this season — outscoring Molina 27-8 over the final two quarters to take a 41-28 victory at Sprague Athletic Complex.
“The last couple of weeks, our theme has been that it’s all about us. We just have to play cleaner football and we can give ourselves a chance to be special,” said Robert Boone, Smith head coach. “We looked at what we had to clean up and made a promise to play smarter, cleaner football. The coaches did a great job making the adjustments and owning up, and we came out with more energy and were fighting and playing for each other, which is what we’re about.”
The Trojans trailed 20-14 at the half before scoring 14 unanswered points in the third quarter for their first lead of the night. Already operating with its backup quarterback behind center in sophomore Pierson Rougeau, Smith had to dig deeper into their depth chart after the signal-caller was dinged up following a sack on second-and-10 from the Molina 30-yard line.
Enter sophomore Jonathan Lopez, the third quarterback the Trojans have used through just five games. Lopez’s first pass of the season was a big one — finding senior Ky’len Woods over the middle for a 36-yard touchdown on fourth-and-16 to give Smith a 21-20 lead.
Following a Molina turnover on downs, senior Jose Peraza expanded that lead to 28-20 with nine seconds left in the third quarter following a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Jaguars countered with a 1-yard score of their own, with Terrence Reed running in a touchdown on fourth-and-goal and doing the same of the two-point conversion to tie the ballgame at 28-28 with 9:14 to play.
Molina looked to be in position to go for the lead after forcing a Trojan punt moments later, but upon fielding a deep punt by Rougeau that bounced near the goal line, the returner fumbled the ball back to Smith. Three plays later, Rougeau found the end zone on a 6-yard line to reclaim the lead at 35-28 with 3:12 remaining.
“Pierson had been punting really well all week long. I said, ‘Listen, you’ve got to get one of those punts off that you’ve been getting all week,’” Boone said. “I was just praying for a really good punt and getting our guys ready to play defense. When you play good and do right by each other, opportunities like that happen and for once we capitalized off it.”
Newman Smith 35, Molina 28 @ 3:12/4QAfter the Jags' special teams turnover, Smith is back in front on a 6 yard TD run on 3rd and goal by QB Pierson Rougeau, who has returned to the game after missing previous series. pic.twitter.com/ncgNlkFghq— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) September 24, 2021
Moments later, the Trojans put the ballgame out of reach — forcing a downfield heave by Molina quarterback Aiden Ochoa that was picked off by senior Caleb Chatman, who returned the interception 65 yards for a touchdown with 1:28 to go for a 41-28 lead.
Chatman’s game-sealing score was one of two defensive touchdowns scored by the Trojans on three turnovers forced. Senior Cam’ron Evans returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to tie the ballgame at 14-14.
“They just had to bow up. They had been playing really well the last few weeks, even when the score didn’t reflect it. We had some field position issues that put them in tough situations,” Boone said. “They had a chance to make another team drive and you were able to see our defense in full form without defending a short field. I’m proud of them. We knew we’d have to make some big plays — I didn’t expect touchdowns, but I’ll take it.”
Newman Smith 41, Molina 28 @ 1:28/4QPICK SIX! The Trojans inch closer to sealing this one on a 65-yd INT return for a TD by Caleb Chatman. pic.twitter.com/f9mOfLKQ5t— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) September 24, 2021
Boone looked to his defense to set the tone on Thursday with his offense down several key players. Absences included Smith’s leading passer (senior Alejandro Diaz), its two leading rushers (sophomore Isaiah Small and junior Robert Dixon) and its second-leading receiver (junior Demonte Greene). That put plenty of attention on Woods, who came through with 12 catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
“He’s phenomenal. What makes him even better is that he’s such a well-rounded guy. The work ethic and the kind of teammate he is gives him those opportunities,” Boone said. “His teammates block for him and quarterbacks want to get the ball in his hands. When it’s there, he’s one of the most dangerous guys in the area.”
Woods was on the receiving end of Rougeau’s lone touchdown pass — a 21-yard strike in the first quarter — on a night when the quarterback completed 12-of-19 balls for 192 yards in the win. Junior Tyrin Blanson added 56 rushing yards.
“We didn’t have all our guns. We’ve got a ton of people hurt, but all these guys do is fight for each other and fight for these coaches,” Boone said. “We’ve got something brewing over here. This guys have some dog in them and some fight in them.”
Snapping a two-game skid on Thursday, Smith returns to action Oct. 1 for a meeting at Standridge Stadium with Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD rival R.L. Turner.