ALTAIR – If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: The game isn’t over until the clock reads zeroes.
When the last play began at Rice Consolidated’s Veterans Memorial Stadium on Aug. 28, the visiting Goliad Tigers were in front.
When it ended and the clock read all zeroes, it was the Raiders who were in front.
Rice Consolidated’s Rafael Herrera scrambled for an 8-yard touchdown on the final play of the evening, lifting his team to an 18-15 win over Goliad in the season opener for both teams.
“It’s just unfortunate that it ended that way, but that’s just how it goes, that’s the game of football,” said first-year Tiger coach Kevin Salazar about the game, which was his debut as a head coach. “We’ll learn from that mistake.”
Herrera’s scramble to pay dirt capped a wild ending to a game that was anything but normal.
First, there was an hour-long weather delay before the start of the third quarter.
Then, near the end of the night, a wild sequence of events that all benefited the hosts created some controversy.
A fumble by a Raider running back near the Tiger goal line took a fortunate bounce out of bounds, giving the hosts another chance.
On the game’s penultimate play, Herrera fumbled the snap, but was still able to pick the ball up and slam it to the ground to stop the clock with three seconds left.
Then, on the final snap, Herrera scrambled left before cutting back right on his way to the end zone.
“We lost some contain from our end and the quarterback got flushed out to the left,” Salazar said about the last play. “We were still in pretty good shape because we still had some good pursuit to the quarterback.
“But, we had some kids who just kind of overran it and got out of position, and their quarterback made a good cut back inside and was able to get to the end zone.”
The scrambling TD wiped out the 15-12 lead Goliad had built to that point.
Rice scored the only TD of the first half with 54 seconds left before halftime to take a 6-0 lead.
When the game finally resumed after a stoppage for lightning, Gage Barrera’s 13-yard TD run gave the Tigers a 7-6 advantage.
Rice made it 12-7 early in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard TD run, but Reese Ruhnke put the Tigers back in front seven minutes later when he capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
He then hit Jesse Martinez for the two-point conversion pass to make it 15-12.
Herrrera’s game winner game on the 14th play of the next drive.
“We were disappointed,” Salazar said about losing. “We’ve been working hard and our kids were fired up. We played hard.
“We had opportunities to win the game. We’ve got to learn from the mistakes and get better.”
The coach he certainly wasn’t about to question the effort he got from his team.
“It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but I’m not going to question their effort. They gave us everything they had.”
Barrera finished as Goliad’s leading rusher with 15 yards on seven carries. The Tigers had just 121 total rushing yards.
Ruhnke threw for 44 yards on 6-of-7 passing.
Gene Ratliff led the defense with 10 tackles. Barrera had eight takedowns.
The Tigers are slated to face Marion Friday in their home opener. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Tiger Stadium.