MESQUITE - Sophomores Nick Florence and Zach Decker are young high school football players, and on Saturday they were at the opposite ends of the emotional spectrum that high school football playoff games often produce.
Florence was all smiles after engineering South Garland's 14-13 upset of Longview in the Class 5A Division II bi-district game played at Mesquite Memorial Stadium. He threw for 245 yards and one touchdown and ran for another score. His right arm offered South Garland a slingshot of hope to the Goliath that Longview, unbeaten and ranked third in the state, represented.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, teammates tried their best to console Decker, the Longview kicker, whose 21-yard field goal attempt for the left hash mark with 46 seconds left slid wide right, leaving South Garland one-point ahead.
South Garland (7-4) advances to play Lake Highlands in the area round at 9 p.m. Friday at Texas Stadium.
Decker was two-of-four on field goal tries during the game. His other miss, from 36 yards, came on the final play of the first half. Ironically, Decker had split the uprights with a try moments before the miss, but officials granted South Garland a time out just before that center snap. That South Garland's defense was able to limit Longview, which piled up 418 yards of total offense, to field goal tries through much of the game was instrumental to their upset..
"We didn't put it away," Longview coach John King said. "We had opportunities to make it a two possession game, but they stopped us."
South Garland coach Mickey Moss agreed.
"We just hung in there and hung in there," Moss said. "It's like a prizefighter. If you let him hang around for 12 rounds he's always got a chance to throw a knockout punch."
It appeared that Longview (10-1) might survive the haymaker that Florence delivered when he drilled a seven-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Payne with 6:46 left. After Matthias Slaughter connected on the point after, South Garland had its first lead at 14-13.
Longview got the ball back twice after that and on its final possession it drove from its own 38 to the South Garland 6-yard-line in four plays. But South Garland's defense stiffened, setting up a fourth and 1 from the 5 and Decker's ill-fated field goal attempt.
"The wind might have pushed it a little," King said.
Longview built an early 10-0 lead on a 38-yard touchdown run by Vondrell McGee and 22-yard field goal by Decker, but Longview was often its worst enemy in the first half when it was penalized 11 times for 101 yards. When asked about the officiating, Longview's King said a lot by saying a little.
"No comment," he said, face flush, eyes widening. "Put that in bold headlines."