An emotional ending turned out to be an instant classic for the No. 8-ranked Trinity Valley Cardinals.
In the final game for coach Brad Smiley, the Cardinals (9-3) gave him a swan song with a 48-41 victory over the Garden City Broncbusters.
The game was the culmination of a tough season in the C.H.A.M.P.S Heart of Texas Bowl at Copperas Cove.
"Just to finish this thing off the right way was big," 11-year coach Brad Smiley said. "We didn't play well in our last game that we took the field. We had talked about it and that wasn't us. We wanted to make sure we were out here for the right reasons which is playing for each other and for 120. I told them not to play for me, or for you but everybody on this team minus yourself.
The fourth quarter was when the fireworks started for both teams.
TVCC held a 31-21 lead before Garden City scored 14 unanswered to take its first lead of the game.
The scoring started with a 24 yard interception return for a TD by Meiko Dotson with 14:28 remaining.
Three minutes later, Terry Wilson found Remi Simmons for a 14-yard touchdown to make it 35-31.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cardinal sophomore Prince Robinson went 99 yards for the touchdown to regain the lead.
"That was a big impact on the team," Robinson said. "On the kick return, I asked my team if they could just block and they did it for me. I didn't expect it to be a shootout because no Kansas team is better than a Texas team. Texas football is life."
The Cardinals trailed 41-38 with 10:07 remaining following a 10-yard touchdown pass from Terry Wilson to Daniel Davis.
The game would remain tight until the final minute when TVCC scored the final 10 points.
Following a 42-yard field goal by Angel Sevier to tie the game at 41, Robinson sealed the victory with 50 seconds remaining on a 20-yard interception return for the final score.
"Did you want us to do this the easy way? My wife (Janna) knows how we want to do this, and she knew I was not going to make this easy on her," Smiley said. "We were trying to keep everyone sweating up there.
"Prince was outstanding. He is such a great kid and has worked so hard this year. He is so valuable to this team as well as everybody on the team. For Tony to get the MVP, which he had a great game too. I am probably going to buy a plaque for Prince to match."
Tony Mullins was named the Most Valuable Player with four receptions for 45 yards and two TDs. He rushed for 25 yards on three carries.
"I am just doing what my coaches tell me to do. I did my part and it was a great game," Mullins said. "I did not think it would be a shootout. They came to play today and I would rather have a good game than a blowout."
TVCC was led by quarterback Shelton Eppler, who was 21 of 47 for 242 yards with three TDs and two interceptions.
"It means what this program is, what this department is and what this college is. We are a champion and a winner," Smiley said. "We do things the right way and do things with class. That is exactly what this victory and the exclamation point on an 11-year career is."
(Story courtesy Joe Elerson/Athens Review)