STEPHENVILLE — Trailing 30-6 midway through the third quarter of its Region II-2A Division I area-round matchup against Marlin, the Coleman football appeared to be headed for an anticlimactic finish to its season.
A furious second-half rally ensured that wouldn’t be the case, but the Bluecats still were left in tears after finishing on the wrong end of a 30-28 margin Thursday at Tarleton Memorial Stadium.
Coleman closed the game with three unanswered touchdowns, getting successful two-point conversion passes after each of the first two. But Jadin Jackson’s run following the third was stopped inches short of the goal line with 5:42 remaining on the clock, and the Bluecats saw their final full possession end with their fourth interception of the game, allowing the Bulldogs to escape with the narrow win.
“It was a great job by the kids,” Coleman coach John Elder said. “You can’t ever count us out. We came up short here, but it was a good job by the kids of fighting back and getting ourselves back in it to have a chance to win.”
The game was competitive in its early stages, as Coleman took the opening kickoff and drove from its own 31-yard line to the Marlin 11 before seeing a fourth-down pass intercepted near the goal line for a touchback.
And even after the Bulldogs followed the big defensive play with a one-play scoring drive, getting an 85-yard strike from Roderick Suiters to I’Aire Kee, the Bluecats landed a counter punch, taking advantage of a bad punt snap and a short field to pull within 7-6 on Jackson’s first of two touchdown runs.
A missed extra point following the senior’s 2-yard scoring run kept Marlin in the lead and started a wave of momentum that would see the Bulldogs score 23 consecutive points over the next 20 minutes.
Eric Ramos started the barrage with a 20-yard field goal to put the Bulldogs up 10-6 with 8:53 to play in the first half, before Suiters hit two more long touchdown passes to give Marlin a 23-6 lead at halftime.
The first of those was a 95-yard hook-up with Allen Williams after a Cutter Cody punt had pinned the Bulldogs at their own 3-yard line. And the second was a 57-yarder to William Workman in the final minute of the second quarter.
Things went from bad to worse for Coleman to start the second half, when a mis-struck kickoff gave the Bulldogs the ball at the Bluecat 46-yard line. And Marlin capitalized, chewing up that yardage in 10 plays — the last a 3-yard touchdown run by Ja’Marien Womack.
It was at this point, though, that the game changed. An injury to starting quarterback Brayden Torres forced Jackson back behind center. And the Bluecats’ 2021 and 2022 signal caller, who was moved to a utility role when he returned from an injury earlier this season, led three straight scoring drives.
“Jadin’s done this before. He’s been in big games before,” Elder said. “Torres had to go out with injury and Jadin stepped right in. He’s been the quarterback the last two years, so it was nothing knew to him. He can run that offense, and at the time he was using his legs, they were getting worn down.”
Brent Bouldin capped the first second-half scoring drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to pull Coleman within 30-14 after Jackson’s two-point pass to Anthony Espitia.
And down by that same score entering the final quarter, Jackson finished off the next drive with a 1-yard scoring plunge and a conversion pass to Hunter Lackey to make it a 30-22 game with 8:12 remaining.
After Marlin was forced to punt on its next drive, Coleman had a chance to tie when Lackey broke loose on a reverse for a 32-yard touchdown with 5:42 to play. But Jackson was stopped inside the 1 on the ensuing two-point try.
“We just talked about it when we were in the (locker) room, it was a big play, big play, big play over the top that got us down in the first half in the first place,” Elder said. “So we had to tighten that up. We gave up that touchdown there early, but we went down and answered.
“We thought we had them on their heels and they were tired, which they were. We were moving the ball. It was just too little too late right there. We had a little miscommunication there on that last two-point conversion and came up a couple of inches short.”
That failed conversion forced the Bluecats to make a stop on the next possession to have one last chance at the win, which they got. But Jackson was intercepted on a third-and-16 play from the Coleman 11, allowing the Bulldogs to chew up all but the final few seconds with a series of kneels.
Marlin only outgained Coleman 361-332, getting well over half its yards on Suiters’ three TD passes. The Bluecats outgained the Bulldogs 203-55 in the second half as Jackson led the CHS comeback.
Jackson finished with a game-high 129 rushing yards to go with his two scores, while Lackey ran for 93 yards on six attempts.
Suiters paced Marlin, passing for 285 yards, while Mario Hopwood added 73 yards on the ground.
With the loss, the Bluecats closed their season at 9-3. It was Coleman’s third consecutive season to win at least nine games.
“It was a good season,” Elder said. “We lost that first one to Mason and went over and got beat by Tolar, who’s a great team that’s still playing. To come in here in a dogfight in the second round, that’s the beauty of the playoffs and the heartbreak of it. There’s no tomorrow to go fix anything or get a redo.
“So we’ve got to go home, and we’ll talk about it forever.”
REGION II-2A DIV. I AREA ROUND
MARLIN 30, COLEMAN 28
MAR — I’Aire Kee 85 pass from Roderick Suiters (Eric Ramos kick), 6:30
COL — Jadin Jackson 2 run (kick failed), 2:40
MAR — Ramos 20 FG, 8:53
MAR — Allen Williams 95 pass from Suiters (Ramos kick), 6:24
MAR — William Workman 57 pass from Suiters (kick blocked), 0:45
MAR — Ja’Marien Womack 3 run (Ramos kick), 6:22
COL — Brent Bouldin 5 run (Anthony Espitia pass from Jadin Jackson), 2:08
COL — Jackson 1 run (Hunter Lackey pass from Jackson), 8:12
COL — Lackey 32 run (run failed), 5:42
RUSHING — Marlin, Mario Hopwood 19-73, Roderick Suiters 9-11, Ja’Marien Womack 2-10, Caden Judie 1 -(-2), Team 3-(-16). Coleman, Jadin Jackson 25-129, Hunter Lackey 6-93, Brent Bouldin 13-34, Anthony Espitia 2-4, Brayden Torres 2-4.
PASSING — Marlin, Roderick Suiters 9-18-0—285. Coleman, Brayden Torres 8-17-3—44, Jadin Jackson 3-6-1—24.
RECEIVING — Marlin, Allen Williams 2-107, D’Mariion Butler 2-15, Kei’Ayr Young 2-14, I’Aire Kee 1-85, William Workman 1-57, Mario Hopwood 1-7. Coleman, Jadin Jackson 4-15, Brent Bouldin 3-19, Hunter Lackey 2-13, Blaze Hronek 1-16, Kelan Sikes 1-4.
RECORDS — Marlin 10-2; Coleman 9-3.