San Saba (6-5, 4-1) scored two touchdowns, both resulting from Badger fumbles, and Karnes City couldn’t cash in on three trips to the red zone in falling 14-0 in the bi-district playoffs. Senior Nick Pacheco had five catches for 45 yards and intercepted a pass in the game, and fellow senior Mike Kinney rushed for 88 yards on 11 carries.
There were spectacular catches, goal line stands, awe-inspiring second efforts; Karnes City won nearly every statistical category and all but shut down the San Saba offense. The Badger defense forced three-and-outs on 7 of the Dillos’ 11 drives in the game and stopped two fourth down conversions – one a rousing goal line stand – and gave up just 150 yards of total offense in the game.
The game caps off a 9-2 season in which the Badgers dominated nearly all of their competition and created a culture that will linger on long after memories of the season begin to fade. No one player ever took the credit, and this group became the pulse of a community – Karnes City’s “One Team, One Heartbeat.”
The Badgers received the opening kickoff and fumbled on the third play of the game, setting up San Saba’s only offensive touchdown. Allen Hale scored on a 5-yard run after three plays to make the score 7-0 with 9:23 to go in the first quarter. After that scoring drive, the Dillos would pick up just two more first downs for the remainder of the game.
The Badgers punted on their next possession, but Pacheco got the ball back to the offense with a big interception with San Saba threatening in Karnes City’s red zone. Pacheco’s interception came on Dillo quarterback Ryan Pannell’s only pass attempt of the game.
Kinney broke loose on runs of 16 and 41 yards on the ensuing possession to help move the ball to the Dillo’s 2-yard line, but the drive stalled out there on fourth down. The two teams traded off possessions for the remainder of the first half with neither gaining much ground.
The Badger defense made a statement on San Saba’s first possession of the second half by stopping the Dillos on the goal line on fourth down. Quarterback Clayton Labus hit Pacheco and J. Boyd Vaughn for gains of 12 and 13 yards on the resulting drive before punting the ball back to San Saba.
The defense again came up big with a fumble recovery by KD Glenn, and after forcing another punt on the next possession, Karnes City drove deep into Dillo territory with help from a fourth-down conversion by Kinney. The drive stalled out, and Karnes City’s defense held again but the San Saba defense capitalized on the Badgers’ next possession. The Dillos scooped up a backwards pass, which was ruled a fumble, and returned it for a touchdown for a 14-0 lead with 4:07 remaining in the game. Senior Garret Schulz caught a 19-yard pass on the next drive for the last big play of the season.
The 14 seniors on this year’s team truly embraced what they stood for all season long. Not only did they live up to their motto, they lived up to their reputation on the field with dominating performances and contributions from every member of the class.
There were tears after the game Friday night, as there always are when a season filled with joy finally comes to an end, and the game will very likely be the last under head coach Tom Warlick – who was named principal of Karnes City High School last month.
But tears almost always come as a result of emotion, and Karnes City’s chosen warriors filled their entire community with pride and joy for three-and-a-half months that few will likely forget any time soon.
Every season eventually ends, but every once in a great while, one comes along that means more than just an excuse to yell loudly on a Friday night.
The “One Team,” will soon disband and prepare for basketball, but the “One Heartbeat,” will certainly continue strong as long as people remember what the team stood for.