Upsets happen in sports.
But in this most unusual of seasons, rarely does a midseason loss hurt more than the one Rowlett suffered on Friday.
When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic stretched into the fall, it postponed the start of the football season by one month for Class 6A and 5A programs.
With the revised setup, every district was given the option by the University Interscholastic League to determine their own schedule/playoff qualification process.
Thinking somewhat outside of the box, the 9-6A District Executive Committee decided on a pod/zone system, separating the eight teams into a pair of four-team pods.
The schedule was formed with the early games pitting the teams in the same pod against one another to determine four seeds.
Last week, the district scheduled “seeding games” with the top seed in one zone playing the fourth seed out of the other and so on.
The hope was always that this would simply be a contingency, and that the teams would be able to play a full district schedule and the teams would qualify for the playoffs in the conventional way.
However, last week, additional positive cases at North Garland and Lakeview not only reshuffled the schedule once again, it meant that the two games that were played last week would indeed be for playoff spots.
Rowlett had earned the top seed from its zone with a perfect 3-0 record, highlighted by a win over rival Sachse. That matched them up with Wylie, the No. 4 seed who entered the game without a win on the season.
But the Pirates (1-5 overall, 1-3 in 9-6A) had been improving since the return of quarterback Marcus McElroy and in a result that is almost fitting given the unpredictable nature of the season, they stunned the Eagles (3-1, 3-1) for a 30-27 victory at Homer B. Johnson Stadium.
McElroy missed Wylie’s first two games and the offense scored a total of 15 points without him, but they had been much more competitive since his return.
He made his presence felt quickly on Friday, hooking up with Cam Pruitt on a 71-yard scoring strike on the game’s opening possession to take a 7-0 lead.
Rowlett countered with a nice drive, capped by a 8-yard touchdown run from D’Wonyae Newton to tie it up.
The Pirates made it clear they would not go away easy, as they regained the lead courtesy of a 30-yard scoring run by Blake Fuller.
It appeared the Eagles righted the ship as the first half progressed, as Newton found the end zone for the second time and Tre Carr added a 10-yard touchdown run to take a 21-13 lead.
But Wylie kept answering, as McElroy hooked up with Seth Cramer for a 44-yard score just before halftime and a field goal from Andrew Cunningham gave them a 22-21 lead in the third quarter.
Rowlett got a big play on special teams when Ernest Thomas returned a punt 61 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-21, but the Pirates again shook off the deficit, as McElroy threw a 64-yard scoring pass to Pruitt and then found Kramer on the two-point conversion to take a 30-27 lead with 8:23 left.
The Eagles would get three more chances, but were unable to put together a tying or winning drive, as the Pirates held on for the surprising win.
In a normal season, it might have just been a mid-district hiccup for Rowlett.
But in these most unusual of circumstances, because of the way 9-6A decided to handle the postseason spots with these seeding games, Wylie clinches a playoff berth and the Eagles are out, even though there is a possibility that the Pirates finish the season with a 1-6 district record and Rowlett goes 6-1.
Is it fair?
But the 9-6A DEC agreed on the format and they understood the potential for a scenario like this to unfold.
The Eagles just did not think it would happen to them.