The Trophy Club Nelson football team was in this exact same position a year ago.
The Bobcats reached the regional round of the playoffs and faced a stacked squad from Denton Guyer. Nelson held the lead entering the fourth quarter, but Guyer rallied for a 43-36 victory on its way to an appearance in the state championship game.
The two met again on Saturday afternoon, and again at the Ford Center, but this time Guyer jumped out to a quick lead then held the Bobcats at arms length the rest of the way en route to a 59-41 win over the Bobcats in a Class 6A Division 2 regional showdown.
“I’m super proud of the kids and proud of their season,” said Byron Nelson coach Travis Pride. “Someone loses at some point unless you win it all so you have to keep life in perspective. Our goal is to come and win and we didn’t, so we’re going to just keep working for that.”
Guyer (13-0), state champions in 2012 and 2013 with five state title game appearances, will advance to meet Southlake Carroll (13-0) in the state quarterfinals at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Northwest ISD Stadium in Justin.
Guyer went up 14-0 after getting stops on Byron’s first two possessions.
A 59-yard punt return by 4-star safety Peyton Bowen, a Notre Dame commit, got the scoring started for the Wildcats. After Byron lost the ball on downs on its second possession at the Guyer 44, it took the Wildcats six plays to go up 14-0 after Trey Joyner ran it in from 6 yards out with 6:34 left in the first quarter.
Byron Nelson (11-2) tried to play catch up from that point. The teams traded scores on the next five possessions, but the Bobcats could never get closer than seven points in the first half.
Byron’s next three possessions resulted in touchdown passes by quarterback Jake Wilson. A 22-yard TD reception by Kurt Ippolito cut the lead to 14-7, then a perfect 19-yard throw and catch in the back corner of the end zone by Landon Ransom-Goelz, who’s headed to Rice, got the Bobcats to within 21-14.
Wilson hit Gavin McCurley with a 25-yard scoring pass to cut the lead to 28-21 with 5:02 left before the intermission.
The Bobcats finally got the stop they needed against Guyer’s 5-star quarterback and Oklahoma commit Jackson Arnold when Noah Cortez pressured Arnold into throwing the ball away on fourth down at the Nelson 20.
BN drove down to the Wildcats’ 23 yard line, but the drive stalled and the Bobcats missed wide right on a 40 yard field goal with 21 seconds left before half.
“The kids fought hard and I’m not going to make any excuses,” said Pride whose team went 9-4 a season ago. “We had a hand full of injuries, but so do other teams, but the kids pulled together and they kept fighting. They didn’t ever lay down and there were opportunities to lay down so I’m proud of them. They’re a good bunch of kids.”
Byron Nelson cut the lead to 31-28 in the third quarter when Wilson tossed a perfect strike on a go route down the right sideline to McCurley from 31 yards out at the 7:32 mark. But that was as close as the Bobcats would get as Arnold, Trey Joyner and Ahmed Yussuf pounded the Bobcats with a bone crunching running attack
The Wildcats scored on four of its last five possession and all of their touchdowns in the game came on running plays outside of the punt return to start. The only possession Guyer didn’t score on was when BN’s Leo Almanza stripped the ball from Arnold and raced 72 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 45-34 with 8:55 left in the game.
Guyer rushed for 353 yards in the game on 61 carries with Arnold leading the way with 156 yards on 22 totes with touchdown runs of 10, 8, and 7 yards. Joyner was 18 for 143 and scored from 6, 1, and 17 yards out with Yussuf adding 53 yards on 18 carries and a 7-yard score.
Wilson threw for 382 yards for the Bobcats completing 27 of 42 passes. McCurley caught 5 passes for 120 yards and Ippolito finished with 100 yards on six receptions including a 1-yard touchdown late in the game. Ransom-Goelz had seven catches for 84 yards and Aaron Darden caught 5 for 43 yards.
“Life is a stepping stone and adversities happen to all of us,” said Pride. “These are little stepping stones for us and hopefully we get a little stronger. Most of the failures in my life have been the things that have made me grow the most.
“Our job is to teach kids the same thing that these are life lessons and you continue to get better and work harder. They’ve had two really good seasons back to back and I’m proud of them.
“We’ve come a long way from where we were. I don’t have one word bad to say about any of these kids. They’re fighters and they’ve been great teammates so we’re just gonna keep working.”