FRISCO — This one hurt.
With 33 seconds left on the fourth-quarter clock at The Ford Center in Frisco, Midlothian Heritage was living a script Hollywood couldn't write. The fairytale ending turned into an all-too-familiar heartbreak 21-game seconds later.
The No. 7 Kennedale Wildcats knocked the No. 6 Heritage Jaguars out of the UIL 4A D1 regional semifinals by two points for the second-consecutive year. Only this time the Wildcats used a 40-yard Kevin Tiero field goal with 12 seconds to play in the fourth quarter for the 45-43 win.
Heritage fell to the Kennedale 49-47 at Vernon Newsome Stadium in 2016.
The field goal completed the come-from-behind win for the Wildcats, who outscored the Jaguars 17-15 in the fourth quarter, and came just after Heritage took its first lead of the ballgame. A 38-yard pass from Kennedale running back DJ Kirven to Jaden Smith on the Wildcats' second play following the Jaguar score and two-point conversion set-up the game-winning kick.
“Unbelievable," said Heritage head football coach Lee Wiginton of the intensity and execution. "I love these kids, and they played tooth and nail. Football is a funny game. It will come down to the wire the wire so many times, and they made every play they needed to make. When we play a team like that...they are an unbelievable team. Tonight, they had the last opportunity, and they produced when they needed to.”
Jaguar quarterback Landon Ledbetter tossed five touchdown passes on 28-of-40 passing for 409 yards on the evening.
His first touchdown pass was to Noah Parker (9 yards) with 7:43 to play in the first quarter to pull the Jaguars within a single score, 21-14.
The next three — 55 yards to Dre Washington (3-62), 43 yards to Jay Wilkerson (7-102), and 14 yards to Langston Anderson (7-109) — all tied the game at 21, 28 and 35-all, respectively.
Ledbetter then completed an 8-play drive that spanned 2:41 of game time with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Kerrion Fields (10-153). The junior signal caller completed 6-of-his-7 passes on the drive that began on the Jaguar 12-yard line and came after Kirven scored from eight yards out to put Kennedale up 42-35.
Yet, none of those touchdown passes were more critical than Ledbetter's final completion of the season.
He rolled to his right, set up outside of the tackle box and found an open Anderson in the back-left corner of the Wildcat end zone. The successful two-point conversion put the Jaguars ahead 43-42.
One season ago, a Kennedale defensive back broke-up a two-point conversion attempt with six seconds to play in the fourth quarter to preserve the two-point win. Ledbetter tossed seven touchdowns in that game on 26-of-43 passing for 472 yards, while Kerrion Fields hauled in 17 catches for 318 yards and three scores.
It made for poetic justice. Unfortunately, it also set the stage for a breathtaking punch to the gut.
Kirven picked up five yards for the Wildcats on their ensuing drive that began at the Kennedale 34-yard line. The running back then completed a 38-yard pass to the Heritage 28-yard line. After a 5-yard offside penalty on the Jaguars and two Heritage timeouts, Tiero drilled a no-doubt-game-winning field goal from 40 yards.
The Wildcats recovered the ensuing squib kick to hand the Jaguars their first loss of the season.
After the game and in the team huddle, Wiginton addressed the team, directing the majority of his speech toward the seniors.
“You have everything in the world to be proud of and everything in the world to be thankful for. I can promise you guys there are a lot of people who know the value of football that will talk about you guys and this team for an awfully long time," Wiginton said. "I’m so, so proud of you guys. So thankful for every one of you. This is the last thing I want you to do. All you guys that have tears right now, go in that locker room and look each other in the eye and give them a hug. For some of them, this will be the last time they play the game. I’m so proud of each one of you guys.”
Anderson led all Jaguar ballcarriers with four rushes for 62 yards. Nathan Gaskamp carried the football three time for 20 yards and the Jaguars' first touchdown.
Fields (10-153), Anderson (7-109) and Wilkerson (7-102) all caught one touchdown and surpassed the 100-yard receiving plateau. Washington added three catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Parker caught the other touchdown pass on his lone grab for nine yards.
The Jaguars outgained the Wildcat offense 494 yards to 458 and did not commit a turnover. Kennedale rush for 360 yards on 42 attempts as a team.
"You can look at every person in a red uniform, and they gave them their best effort," Wiginton added. "For some, their football lives are over but who they are and what they do this is something they will be proud of forever."
Heritage finished the season 12-1 and ranked No. 6 in the Associated Press 4A poll. The Jaguars have now won a district, bi-district and area championship in each of the first two years of the varsity program.
Mike Sackett contributed to this report
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith