By George Slaughter
The Taylor Mustangs know that successful comebacks require a fighting spirit. They learned Friday night that having a kicker with some ice water in his veins helps, too, as junior kicker Renan Baeta kicked a 35-yard field goal with 16 seconds left to clinch a 31-28 win against Morton Ranch at Legacy Stadium.
Taylor improves to 3-2 overall, and 1-0 in district 19-6A play. Morton Ranch falls to 3-2 overall, and 0-1 in district.
The Mavericks took an early lead on a 45-yard run by junior quarterback Jaymarcus Wilson, who took advantage of a great block from Josh Gaton near the Morton Ranch sideline.
Taylor punted on its next possession, and the Mavericks got the ball at the Taylor 34-yard line. They needed only play to score, a 34-yard touchdown pass from Gaton to senior wide receiver Isaiah Mosley.
Down 14-0 at this point, the Mustangs rallied to get some points. Junior running back Casey Shorter scored on a 5-yard run 1:44 left in the first quarter. Shorter’s touchdown was the last score of the first half, and the Mavericks went into halftime with a 14-7 lead.
Morton Ranch received the second-half kickoff, and put together a 75-yard scoring drive to reestablish a 14-point lead. This time senior running back Jaelon Moorehead scored on a 20-yard run with 8:59 remaining in the third quarter.
Taylor responded with a touchdown of its own, a nine-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback J Jensen III to wide receiver Keaton Kubecka.
After holding Morton Ranch and forcing a Mavericks punt, the Mustangs went back to work and tied the game on a 26-yard pass from Jensen to Shorter with 1:08 left in the third quarter.
Taylor took the lead on a 24-yard scoring from Jensen to Shorter with 9:32 left in the game. But Morton Ranch came back to tie the game, at 28 apiece, on a 45-yard run by Wilson.
Taylor got the ball back with 3:34 in the game. The Mustangs put together a 96-yard drive which culminated with Baeta’s game-winner. Baeta said the kick wasn’t his first field goal, but it was his first game-winner.
“They (teammates) just said, drill it, do your thing,” Baeta said. “That’s it. That’s what they told me. Stay calm and drill it.”
With only 16 seconds left, the Mustangs didn’t want to take chances on a long scoring play by Morton Ranch. Baeta kicked a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff, which used up a lot of time and make things easier for the Taylor defense.
“That was huge at the end,” Taylor coach Chad Simmons said. “This is not really the way we wanted it to happen, giving up 28 points, but you couldn’t ask for more fight at the end, when kids made plays. I’m just as proud as I can be of them.”
The win was a nice rebound from a touch loss the previous week. Simmons said the team had to learn from what happened, and realize that this week, with district play starting, everyone is starting over and the team’s goal remains to earn a playoff berth.
“These are the ones that count,” Simmons said.
Morton Ranch celebrated its homecoming Friday, and the football team dressed for the occasion. Instead of wearing their traditional purple and white uniforms, the Mavericks wore black jerseys and pants donated by former Morton Ranch star Danielle Hunter, now playing for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
Taylor returns to action against Seven Lakes Friday at Legacy Stadium. Morton Ranch returns to action Friday against Cinco Ranch at Rhodes Stadium.
“We have a tough game ahead with Seven Lakes, but I think we’ll pull through and have a good season,” Baeta said.