This has been anything but a conventional season, as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every walk of life.
The high school football scene was certainly not immune, and Rowlett was one of the teams most-impacted.
First, the Eagles had a positive case toward the start of the season that pushed their season debut all the way back to Oct. 22.
Because of that postponement, as well as the subsequent ones to other teams to follow, the newly-written 9-6A playoff rules kicked in, ushering in a pod system for this season.
Rowlett took care of business when it did take the field winning three straight games, highlighted by a victory over rival Sachse, to earn the No. 1 seed out of their group.
According to way the district voted, that pitted the Eagles against fourth-seeded Wylie with a playoff berth at stake on Nov. 13.
As fate would have it, that coincided with the return of Pirate starting quarterback Marcus McElroy, and that energized a winless Wylie team to pull off a 30-27 victory, thus ending Rowlett’s playoff hopes with still four weeks left in the season.
It was a tough pill to swallow, but the Eagles vowed to venture on.
However, other COVID-19-related postponements meant Rowlett had not played since Nov. 19 and it looked as if that would be their final game when Lakeview cancelled this week.
But Frisco Memorial, who was in a similar situation with no playoffs to play for but also no opponent due to Frisco’s quarantine, answered the phone and the two teams were able to close out the season the way they hoped to on Friday—on the field.
With no history between the two teams, and little time to prepare, it was the Eagles who were able to leave on a high note after holding on for a 20-14 victory at Williams Stadium.
Rowlett finishes the season with a 4-2 record, and its 3-2 record in 9-6A leaves it as one of only three teams with a winning record in district play, while the Warriors close the year at 3-6.
In just its third varsity season, Memorial had already eclipsed its win total from the first two years combined, when it came out on top in just one game each season.
The Warriors trailed throughout, but made things interesting in the fourth quarter.
Star wide receiver Zion Steptoe had been flirting with a big play all game and it finally happened when he hauled in a 53-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Flowers to cut their deficit to 17-14 with 7:20 left.
Rowlett stayed poised, as quarterback Tre Carr, who was 20-of-26 for 216 yards and had 27 carries for 100 yards, led them back down the field.
Though the drive stalled after a sack by Gavin Yates, Jacob Martin was able to connect on a 40-yard field goal to push the lead back to 20-14 with 4:19 left.
Needing only a touchdown to take the lead, Memorial got a 37-yard kickoff return from R.J. DeMadet to set the offense up at the 42.
It was the Eagles defense that rose to the occasion, though, forcing two straight incomplete passes to force fourth down and then getting a sack to end the threat with 3:11 left.
Three straight runs from Carr then allowed Rowlett to move the chains and subsequently run out the clock.
Neither offense was able to get much going early on and it was the Eagle defense who turned in a momentum-changing play when defensive lineman JaCory Brown made a great play to pick off a pass and set them up at the Memorial 46.
Two plays later, Carr hooked up with Caleb Stiggers-Blair on a 40-yard scoring strike to take a 7-0 lead.
After forcing a quick punt, the Rowlett offense went right back to work, moving 61 yards in seven plays, with Jacob Martin kicking a 20-yard field goal to push the lead to 10-0 with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Warriors finally got the offense going midway through the second quarter, using a big play do it when Charlie Flowers hooked up with Jeremy Lau on a 53-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 10-7 with 4:21 left in the half.
The Eagles tried to counter, driving down to the Memorial 23, but an interception by Kaleb Schraer thwarted the chance and sent it to halftime a three-point game.
Rowlett got the ball to start the second half and was again in Warrior territory until a sack by Memorial’s Gavin Yates ended the drive.
After forcing a quick three-and-out, the Eagles were finally able to cash in when on third-and-4, Colton Yarbrough caught a late pitch from Carr and weaved through the defense on a 37-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 17-7 with 2:52 left in the third quarter.
Rowlett had forced three-and-outs on Memorial’s first two drives of the second half, and while the Warriors finally got going in the fourth, the Eagles were able to hold on for the season-ending win.