Melissa outscores Jags on the road

Heritage can’t keep pace with explosive Cardinals in season’s first loss

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Heritage quarterback Kaden Brown (2) tries to elude Melissa linebacker Caleb Otlewski (18) during Friday night's non-district game at Cardinal Stadium in Melissa. The Cardinals beat the Jaguars, 48-28.

MELISSA — In a game with lots of explosive offense, a defensive play here and there can make a huge difference.

The Heritage Jaguars traveled to Class 4A Division I state semifinalist Melissa’s Cardinal Stadium with the intent of going toe-to-toe with one of North Texas’ most dominant receiver corps regardless of classification.

For a while, they did.

But costly penalties prevented the Jags from keeping pace late in the game, and the Cardinals used a late interception to seal a 48-28 win, handing HHS its first loss of the season.

Holding calls on back-to-back drives stopped the Jags cold in the third quarter, leading to Melissa touchdowns each time. Then an interception and return all the way to the HHS 8-yard line allowed the Cardinals to put the game on ice with 7:10 remaining in the game.

The Jaguars (3-1) dropped out of the 4A Division I state poll with the loss.

Melissa quarterback Sam Fennegan passed for 390 yards and four touchdowns as the Cardinals (2-2) amassed 610 yards in total offense. Two of Fennegan’s scoring throws went to Jayvon Smith, who had eight catches for 145 yards; and Kennedy Brantley had four catches for 105 yards and a TD. Ashton Mitchell-Johnson rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns for the Cards.

For the Jags, Kaden Brown completed 20 of 28 pass attempts for 276 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Jason Barela caught five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown and ran for 53 yards and a TD as well, and Brown rushed for 60 yards and a score. Sophomore T.J. Pride caught six passes for 77 yards and a nifty one-handed catch for a TD in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, junior defensive back Solomon Hopkins got a workout as he led the Jags with 16 total tackles.

Each team scored on its first three possessions of the night — Melissa using lightning-quick drives of five, one and six plays using an up-tempo offense that didn’t allow HHS to sub players in, and Heritage being more methodical — for a 21-all game early in the second quarter. Then each team finally got a stop as the Jags missed a 36-yard field goal, and HHS junior linebacker Brandon Thomas picked off a Fennegan pass.

But the Jags were forced to punt for the first time, and Fennegan hit Smith on a 61- yard pass play with 1:46 remaining to give Melissa a 28-21 halftime lead.

HHS got a defensive stop to open the second half and executed a fake punt as Thomas ran for a first down, but the play was negated by a holding penalty and the Jags went on to turn over the ball on downs, leading to a Melissa TD to make it 35-21.

Then another holding call turned a makeable third-and-3 into a third-and-13, and HHS punted again, leading to another Cardinal scoring drive for a 42-21 margin with 3:11 to go in the third.

Brown’s touchdown pass to Pride down the right sideline before the end of the quarter brought HHS back to within two scores, and HHS’ Damian Alexander and Temerick Johnson sacked Melissa’s Fennegan on fourth down giving the Jags hope with plenty of time left.

But moments later, Brown’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Melissa’s Dalton Wittwer, who ran it all the way back to the 8 to set up the Cards’ game-clincher.

The Jags will host the 4A Division I No. 9-ranked Springtown Porcupines for homecoming on Friday night at 7 p.m. at MISD Multipurpose Stadium. Springtown (4-0) routed Godley last week, 52-20.