COPPELL – Needing a win to qualify for the playoffs, Coppell senior tailback Jason Ngwu knew what was at stake Friday night.
Ngwu made sure that the Cowboys' season didn't end in their home stadium.
Ngwu rushed for 275 yards and three touchdowns while the Cowboy defense put the clamps on Flower Mound’s offense in the second half to coast to a 51-28 victory against the Jaguars at Buddy Echols Field.
"I knew that if we lose, then we could go home, but if we would win, we would go to the playoffs," he said. "I knew it was a big game. I knew that I had to step up."
Thanks to Ngwu, Coppell is back in the postseason after a one-year hiatus.
Coppell (6-3) will play Denton Guyer at 1 p.m. Dec. 12 in a Class 6A Division II bi-district game at C.H. Collins Athletic Complex. Flower Mound finished its season at 4-6.
“I’m so proud of our kids,” said Mike DeWitt, Coppell head coach. “I’m so proud of our coaches. Overall, it was just a phenomenal job. I thought in the second half, our kids played with so much more passion and heart. I’m really proud of them.”
DeWitt credited his defense for clamping down in the second half after Flower Mound junior quarterback Nick Evers had the Cowboys on their heels in the first half. Evers had 264 passing yards and three touchdown passes at intermission, two to junior Cade Edlein.
Flower Mound took its only lead of the game at 7-0 on a 12-yard pass from Evers to Edlein with 8:18 left in the first quarter.
Edlein had four pass receptions for 88 yards. Jaguars senior wide-out Isaac Carpenter used his speed to haul in six passes for 149 yards with a touchdown.
Evers finished 16-of-28 for 294 yards with only 30 yards in the second half.
“We didn’t change anything,” DeWitt said. “We said at the end of the day, it’s about tackling, it’s about covering people. It’s the mindset of ‘I want it more than they do’ and playing for each other. Up front, we challenged those guys to being able to run the football. We did a great job.”
Coppell senior defensive back Canon Peters attributed a different reason behind the turnaround.
“We had the first-half jitters,” he said. “We weren’t settled in. Coach (DeWitt) gave a halftime speech and got the defense all riled up. We went out in the second half and didn’t allow any points until the end.”
The game was tied at 14-14 just over two minutes in the second quarter after a 27-yard pass from Evers to Carpenter, but that was as close as Flower Mound would get for the remainder of the night.
Ngwu countered with a 12-yard run up the middle for a 21-14 lead, and on Coppell's next possession, shed multiple missed tackles on his way to the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown run and a 28-14 Cowboys lead.
Ngwu was quick to credit Coppell's offensive line. It was a unit that allowed the Cowboys to churn out 383 rushing yards. Sophomore Michael Rodriguez contributed 72 yards on six carries with a touchdown.
“It was beautiful,” Ngwu said. “It was my dream come true. I love my linemen. They really made my whole game today. All of the thanks to them.”
Evers brought Flower Mound to within 28-21 after he completed a 29-yard touchdown pass to Edlein with 2:20 left until halftime.
But the second half was all Coppell.
Rodriguez burst 36 yards for a touchdown three minutes into the third quarter to give the Cowboys a 34-21 lead.
Tyler Reid booted a 25-yard field goal on Coppell's next possession to bump its advantage to 37-21.
Coppell's special teams even got in on the fun.
Senior Canon Peters returned a blocked punt 15 yards for a touchdown later in the quarter to put this game out of reach, and for good measure, hauled in an interception on the first play of Flower Mound's ensuing drive.
"We put that blocked punt play during Thursday's practice," Peters said. "Coach said it was going to work, and it worked. We came into this game knowing that it was do or die. We came out here and got the 'W.'"
Flower Mound finally broke through in the second half on a 26-yard pass from back-up quarterback Luke Clayton to Jack Wells, but it was too little, too late.