By George Slaughter
West Brook improves improve to 11-2 and will play Cypress Creek, which defeated Summer Creek Saturday night at Rice Stadium.
Tompkins ends its season at 10-3.
Tompkins coach Todd McVey said that his team wasn’t nervous or intimidated by its first appearance at NRG Stadium. On Thursday, he said, the team visited the stadium and got to see where things were and had a chance to become acclimated.
Tompkins sophomore running back described the atmosphere at Saturday’s game as a good environment.
“People dream of playing here,” Smith said. “But you don’t pay attention to it when the game starts.”
The Tompkins confidence showed as it took an early 21-0 lead. Sophomore running back R.J. Smith scored the first touchdown on a six-yard run. He scored the second touchdown on a 38-yard run. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Milroe scored the third touchdown on a 39-yard scramble.
Until this point, the Tompkins defense had prevented West Brook from getting a first down. But West Brook, with five winning seasons over the last six years, brought its resilience. It put together a 75-yard scoring drive, which was capped by a 58-yard run by running back Robert McGrue with 2:24 left in the quarter.
Tompkins added a 40-yard field goal by senior kicker Jacinto Esteban early in the second quarter, and West Brook added two more touchdowns. The first was on a three-yard run by Jakobi Holland. The second was on a 59-yard run by quarterback La’Ravien Elia with 1:22 left in the half to narrow the Tompkins lead to three points at halftime.
Tompkins reasserted itself on the opening drive of the second half, as senior Ryan Schmidt scored on a nine-yard run.
West Brook responded with a drive of its own, highlighted by a 32-yard run by McGrue. Two plays later, he scored on a five-yard run. The extra point put the score at 31-28, Tompkins, with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter.
West Brook took its first lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Elia scored on a 50-yard touchdown run.
Tompkins came back to retake the lead on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Milroe to senior wide receiver Ethan Guy.
West Brook needed only one play, a 75-yard run by McGrue, to take back the lead, 42-38, with 6:41 left in the game.
But Tompkins hung tough, putting together another scoring drive. Smith scored on a 10-yard run with 3:04 remaining, and Esteban’s extra point gave Tompkins a 45-42 lead.
West Brook had made its comeback using big plays, and it got another one, a 50-yard run by McGrue for the go-ahead touchdown with two minutes remaining. Tompkins was driving the ball when the clock ran out.
“We’re a little numb, a little raw right now,” McVey said after the game. “I couldn’t be more proud of this football team. They fought to the end. It’s playoff football. I felt our kids left it out on the field.”
Milroe said the loss hurt really bad, adding that he felt badly for the seniors, many of whom won’t be playing football in college. Still, considering how Tompkins went winless in 2017, Tompkins has had a remarkable season.
“I thought we did pretty good this year, but we’re still working,” Milroe said.
Smith said he and his teammates plan to return to play again at NRG Stadium next year.
“It’s going to be a good offseason for us,” Smith said.