The Cedar Park Timberwolves stood in stunned silence as another team celebrated on their home field for the first time in more than four years.
Despite a furious fourth quarter comeback, the Timberwolves fell in their first game of the season, losing to Waco Midway 35-28 Friday night at Gupton Stadium.
“We learned a lot about ourselves,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “First games are always tough but now we have a game under our belts. We had some mixed results and change a couple plays here and there and the result could be different.”
The Panthers got out to a 16-point lead in the second half, but Cedar Park fought back to tie the game with a pair of touchdowns and two point conversions. Midway scored the game winning touchdown with a 51-yard run right through the heart of the Timberwolves’ defense with just over three minutes left.
Cedar Park responded with an eight play drive that ended in a failed conversion on 4th and 1 on the Midway 42 with less than three minutes to go.
Sexton finished the game 16-of-31 for 101 yards, one touchdown, and one interception and also ran for 26 yards and a score. Will Lipscomb carried the ball 20 times for 101 yards and had 20 receiving yards, while Ibri Leal had 57 yards and one touchdown. Sameer Alzer caught three passes for 13 yards and a touchdown and a two point conversion.
“We made too many mistakes offensively and didn’t capitalize on possessions like we needed to,” Abseck said. “They’re big and strong up front and we put our defense in a bad situation. In the first half specifically, we needed to maintain drives and get first downs and we failed to do that.”
Cedar Park linebacker Logan Mayou recovered a fumble on the second play of the game and returned it 29 yards to give the Timberwolves an early 6-0 lead.
Midway took the lead when it capped off a 91-yard, nine play drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Oklahoma commit Tanner Mordecai to sophomore Will Nixon.
Sexton threw his first touchdown of the season to Alzer on the first play of the second quarter to give Cedar Park a 12-7 lead. But running back James Fullbright scored the first of his three touchdowns to give the Panthers a 14-12 halftime lead.
Midway came out of the break hot, recovering an onside kick and scoring on the first play from scrimmage. After a Cedar Park three and out, Fullbright scored again, this time on a 57-yard scamper.
Keegan Nicholas came up with an interception and the Timberwolves drove as the third quarter expired. Leal scored from two yards out and Alzer caught the two point conversion to cut the lead to eight points.
Sexton scrambled for a first down on Cedar Park’s next drive and slide for the sticks. He was hit late and the Panthers were given a 15-yard penalty. Sexton wasn’t going to be denied two plays later when he called his own number for a 13-yard touchdown. Sexton found a wide open Brandon Breed for the two point conversion to tie the game.
“That’s who we are and that’s who they are,” Abseck said. “They’re not going to quit. We’re going to go back to work Sunday and fix what we need to so we’re ready to go next week.”
Fullbright scored his third touchdown on the next drive before stopping Cedar Park on 4th down. It was the Timberwolves’ first loss at Gupton since they fell to Abilene Cooper on Sept. 7, 2012, and went on to win the state title.
“As a team, we never thought we were out of the fight,” Sexton said. “We went until the very end and it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. We just have to go back to the drawing board and get better.”
The Timberwolves return to action against LISD rival Vandegrift next Friday night at 7:30 p.m. from Monroe Stadium. Cedar Park begins District 19-5A play back at Gupton against Bastrop at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 15.
The team’s goal before the season started that the goal was an undefeated, state title campaign. The last two times the Timberwolves lost the first game of the season, the year ended with a trip to the title game with one victory.
“One game doesn’t define us,” Sexton said.