MOUNT PLEASANT — Despite coming up empty on three previous trips inside the red zone Friday night, the Nacogdoches Dragons were looking to make a big play with their final contest of the season on the line. Trailing 14-7 with nine seconds remaining and the ball at the Tiger 10-yard line, a bad snap from center didn’t allow senior quarterback Jake Smith to get off a pass to possibly tie the game and the Dragons came up short in the finale.
Nacogdoches ended the disappointing season 2-8, finishing in sixth place in the eight-team District 9-5A DII race with a 2-5 record. Mount Pleasant (5-5) secured the fifth spot in the district race with a 3-4 mark.
Marshall (7-3, 7-0 dist.) won the district title with a 38-33 win over Pine Tree (5-5, 4-3 dist.). The Pirates placed fourth. Whitehouse (7-3, 6-1 dist.) placed second with a 28-21 win over last-place Hallsville (2-8, 0-7 dist.) Friday. Lindale (7-3, 5-2 dist.) grabbed the third playoff spot with a 64-50 win over Jacksonville (2-8, 1-6 dist.).
Both the Dragons and Tigers had trouble sustaining drives most of the night, as the Nacogdoches defense held Mount Pleasant to 216 total yards, while the Dragons finished with 176. The Tigers were only 4-of-11 on third-down conversions and 0-of-4 on fourth down. Meanwhile, the Dragons were 2-of-13 on third down and 3-of-6 on fourth down.
Nacogdoches moved the ball inside the Mount Pleasant 20-yard line four times on the night, but unfortunately came up empty each time. The Dragons took the opening kickoff and moved to the Tiger eight, but Smith was intercepted in the endzone by Will Hills.
A partially blocked Dragon punt in the second quarter led the only score of the first half. The Tigers drove 52 yards in eight plays as Kaleb Thompson scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 6:30 on the second-quarter clock. The drive was kept alive with a roughing the passer penalty against the Dragons on an incomplete third-and-three play. The point after gave Mount Pleasant a 7-0 lead.
Nacogdoches took the ensuing kickoff and moved from its own 33-yard line to the Tiger seven. But a pass on fourth-and-five at the Mount Pleasant seven fell incomplete with 45 seconds left before the half.
The Dragons came out with momentum to start the third quarter, stopping the Tigers, and then moving to the Mount Pleasant 14. But Smith was sacked on third down and his fourth-down pass fell incomplete, thwarting the effort.
Mount Pleasant added to is lead on the next series, driving 80 yards in 11 plays. Ed Wilder scored from six yards out to boost the Tiger lead to 14-0 with 2:43 remaining in the third.
Nacogdoches was given new life with 3:49 remaining when Jaden Hall broke through and blocked a Tiger punt, picked it up and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown. Chris Landeros’ PAT cut the lead in half, 14-7.
The Dragons then tried an onside kick and the ball short-hopped, went off a Tiger player and then off Hall’s hand and out of bounds, giving possession to Mount Pleasant.
But the Dragons didn’t give up, forcing a punt, and Eddie Cross returned it 16 yards to the Mount Pleasant 26-yard line with 2:14 remaining. Smith moved Nacogdoches into position to possibly tie the score, but the Dragons couldn’t stick the ball in the endzone in the final seconds.
Jamorian Sanders led the Dragon ground game with 64 yards on seven carries. Camorian Thacker added 36 yards on 10 runs. Smith completed 13-of-24 passes for 77 yards. Ja’tavious Deckard caught a game-high six passes for 38 yards.