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A Texas two-step into history

What happened out here in Texas this past Saturday night in the 6A football championship game was epic. The North Shore Mustangs from the eastside of Houston were matched against Dallas’ Duncanville Panthers, both teams coming in undefeated.

I was far more than a casual spectator that night because I spent my first eight years teaching and coaching at North Shore. In addition to that, our basketball team played these same Duncanville Panthers in the state finals in 1991. I still cringe at the memory, as the Panthers came to Austin, Texas wielding a buzz saw. We had a great team, but on that night Duncanville was unstoppable. Twenty-seven years later, these same two teams stood toe to toe again at state. Unfortunately, the inevitable stared the Mustangs in the face as this championship game wound down. North Shore had gone up 35-29 late in the fourth quarter, but Duncanville stormed back and took the lead 36-35 with a minute to play.

Of course, North Shore fought to the end. In the final seconds of the game, they drove the ball and got down to the Panthers’ 35-yard-line, almost in field-goal range. But a penalty pushed them back to their 45-yard line as the clock read :03.

On that final play, North Shore sophomore quarterback Demartrius Davis took the snap, danced around in the backfield to the give the white-jersey receivers time to get to the end zone, then released a missile into the far-right corner of the end zone. Davis’ pass looked from the very beginning to be much too far over the heads of the receivers. It turned out that the ball was reachable, and all the players in the corner of the end zone jumped simultaneously to get to it — a half-dozen total players, two in North Shore white and the rest a sea of red Panthers swatting at the ball.

One of those players in a white jersey was North Shore’s Ajani Carter. He elevated high enough to get both hands on the ball, then had the presence of mind to pull it quickly to his chest to avoid a dozen hands from swiping it away. As a fan watching, I could vaguely see the white jersey in the middle of the crowd. So, I turned to find the official. Immediately, I saw him running toward the pile of players on the ground. Then, emphatically, he raised both of his arms. Touchdown!

Carter had come down with the ball, somehow. It was unbelievable. In a moment, he had secured the pass and a place in North Shore immortality. On the verge of repeating history, this North Shore team amazingly two-stepped its way into it.