SPORTS HEADLINES

La Vega ends Decatur’s storybook season in 4A semifinal

By Reece Waddell | Published Friday, December 14, 2018.
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It took only three plays for John Richards to find the end zone Friday afternoon for the Waco La Vega Pirates.

On La Vega’s first drive, Richards took three handoffs from quarterback Ara Rauls III and went 74 yards to put the Pirates up 7-0. By the end of the first quarter, Richards had racked up 139 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries.

“It reminded me of the first time we played Hirschi,” said senior receiver Beau Bedford. “I said ‘We’re in for a dogfight.’”

He was right.

Decatur committed two first-half turnovers and surrendered 393 total yards in the first two quarters alone, falling 53-0 to La Vega in the 4A Division I semifinal at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Eagles finished a historic year 8-7 overall after ending the regular season 4-6.

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

“I hate it for them for how it ended tonight, but I told them I wouldn’t be any prouder if we won tonight,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller. “We played a great team. What they’ve accomplished and what they’ve come through to get here … nobody wanted it to end like this, but they’ll wake up tomorrow or maybe Monday, and realize they accomplished something that not many people can do.”

Decatur moved the ball efficiently on its first drive, picking up two first downs to move the ball into La Vega territory. But the Eagles stalled, and on fourth-and-three, Roman Fuller was drilled for a loss and fumbled.

On the Pirates’ ensuing drive, Decatur’s defense forced a three-and-out, getting the ball back with favorable field position at midfield. The Eagles squandered another opportunity moments later, as Layton Harris fumbled the ball up after taking a punishing hit from a La Vega defender.

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

Richards added another touchdown 11 seconds into the second quarter, finding the end zone from 19 yards out. The Pirates’ offense did the rest, slamming the door on any hope for a Decatur comeback.

La Vega ended the night with 625 total yards of offense, with 480 of them coming on the ground. It was the most yards Decatur had given up since a 75-35 loss to Springtown in its second district game Oct. 19.

“We just overran it a little bit, missing some tackles — give all the credit to them, they’re really good,” Bedford said. “I think we could have played better, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

Decatur joined the 1975 and 1988 teams as the only squads in school history to advance to the state semifinal. After starting the season 1-4, the Eagles did the unthinkable and made a magical postseason run few saw coming.

“They truly embodied what we preach all the time, which is the next play mentality,” Coach Fuller said. “They’ve been able to put the noise aside and put the past behind them.

“They really loved each other. They really loved their brother and cared about their teammates. I think that’s what I’ll remember the most.”

Notes:

Playing through the pain

Decatur senior Beau Bedford said after the game he thinks he fractured his right elbow during the first or second quarter. Class 4A’s leading receiver caught four passes for 36 yards and played the entire game on defense at safety.

Messenger photo by Joe Duty.

“I wasn’t going out like that,” Bedford said.

Bedford finishes the season with 1,668 yards and 15 touchdowns on 114 catches.

23 seniors close careers

Decatur started four seniors on its offensive line and had 23 seniors on the roster total.

Decatur coach Mike Fuller praised them after the game and said they would leave a legacy for generations to come.

“It’s a special group. It’s a really special group,” Fuller said. “There’s not a ton of them. There’s a lot of guys that were with this class, that for whatever reason, didn’t stick it out with them. The guys who stayed have been greatly rewarded. They’ll leave a legacy with the guys who follow them. Everybody will know these guys.

“They’ll know if things start off bad or aren’t going how you want them to go, that it’s not some mythical story. You can say ‘You can turn this around. It doesn’t matter how you started.’ The kids in this town will be able to look and say ‘I saw those guys do that. I saw them turn it around. I saw them get better. I saw them believe more.’ These seniors had a ton to do with that.”

Blanked again

Decatur’s offense was shutout for the first time this season in the loss. In the Eagles’ last state semifinal appearance in 1988, Decatur was also shutout, falling 23-0 to Southlake Carroll.

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