With 26 seconds left in the 2A Division II state championship game against state powerhouse Mart, Windthorst lined up for the play of its life.
Windthorst needed darn near a miracle just to be in this moment. Two of its last three games were decided by one score. Wide receiver Kyle Wolf needed a legendary catch on 4th-and-12 that netted him Offensive MVP honors to even give the Trojans a chance.
Then, after quarterback Cy Belcher forced his way into the end zone from 1-yard out against a fearsome Mart defense to pull the game within one point, Windthorst needed to miss an extra point and needed to draw Mart offsides with a shift that Panthers coach Kevin Hoffman stressed to his team every day in practice leading up to the game. Every single detail needed to go right.
Windthorst lined up in its heaviest set for a two-point conversion with three in the backfield and seven on the line beside running back Ethan Belcher, who stood ready to take a direct snap. Mart matched with eight on the defensive line and three in the midfield, ready to push back against an inevitable dive.
But Belcher remembered watching film with head coach Chris Tackett and seeing that Mart loved to slant in short-yardage situations. When he surveyed the field, he did the math in his head, saw the mismatch and knew exactly what to do.
“We knew we had a good play that we could go to there and that’s what we called,” Windthorst coach Chris Tackett said.
Belcher motioned Wolf out to receiver, drawing a defender with him. The ball was snapped. Belcher curled around the strong side, looking to see where the defenders on the three-time defending state champions disappeared to, and walked into the end zone untouched for the biggest play of his life.
“I didn’t expect it to be that easy at all,” Belcher said. “I don’t even know if I can explain the emotions I had when I scored that. Just so happy for our team and our town and our community.”
Twenty-six seconds later, legendary Mart quarterback Roddrell Freeman’s Hail Mary fell short and Windthorst captured the state championship for the first time since 2003.
“That’s probably the happiest I’ve been missing an extra point,” OL/PK Tryston Hardin said with a chuckle. “That might have been the happiest time of my life. It was just incredible.”
Windhorst had not played in a state championship in 10 years and hadn’t brought one home since 2003. On the other sidelines was a team that played in this game four years in a row and that has cemented its place as one of the great dynasties in the history of Texas high school football. But on Wednesday, the day belonged to Windthorst.
“It’s something I think every kid dreams of if they’re playing sports,” Belcher said. “Fulfilling a dream that big, it’s unbelievable. I’m not sure I’ll even process what happened, not for the next couple of days.
“Knock off the defending state champions? I don’t think anyone even thought we would be here. But here we are.”
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