WALLER — Revenge wasn’t in the cards.
For the second straight year, Cedar Park and Manvel met in the regional semifinals. And for the second straight year, the Timberwolves fell to the Mavericks, losing 56-17 Friday night at Waller ISD Stadium.
“This is always the worst night in football,” Cedar Park head coach Carl Abseck said. “They put so much effort into it and we’re super proud of them. If you’re not the best, it’s only a matter of time until you play the best.”
Senior running back Ibri Leal was the offensive leader for the Timberwolves, carrying the ball five times for 29 yards. Senior wide receiver Payden Sawicki caught four passes for 21 yards and Ryan Fiala finished 6 of 26 for 32 yards.
Sophomore Tammer Alzer picked off a Manvel pass late in the second quarter and returned it for Cedar Park’s first touchdown of the game and freshman Ryder Hernandez threw a 35-yard touchdown to Logan Mayou late in the game.
The Timberwolves used second-half rallies to win in the first two rounds of the playoffs, scoring 21 points to beat Magnolia in the first round and scoring 17 unanswered against Ennis in the second round.
“It was a tough just to get here — we fought through a lot of adversity,” Abseck said. “They contained the tradition of Cedar Park football. Getting 11 wins in a season is something that at most schools is the best season in school history. For us, it’s an expectation.
The Manvel roster is loaded with DI talent and it all showed up Friday night.
Texas A&M pledge Deneric Prince ran for 80 yards and a touchdown while current and future teammate Brian Johnson had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. Missouri signee Kam Scott scored twice, first on an 81-yard reverse and again with an 82-yard kickoff return.
Quarterback Kason Martin, who will play at North Texas, threw for 77 yards and a touchdown and A&M commit Jalen Preston caught four passes for 52 yards and ran for 13 yards. He had two touchdowns called back for holding.
“It’s hard to get into a rhythm when you’re not getting first downs,” Abseck said. “We were trapped down on our end of the field a lot and it puts a lot of pressure on you to get a first down. We were close a couple times and just couldn’t connect.”
Cedar Park recovered the opening kickoff, but the early opportunity was wasted when it went three and out. That trend continued for the Timberwolves as it failed to get a first down on its own accord in the first quarter.
Manvel marched down the field on its first drive of the game, capped off with a back-corner touchdown pass from Martin to Warren Laster.
The Timberwolves used some trickeration early in the second quarter when Keegan Nichols got a first down on a fake punt.
Both teams capitalized on big plays late in the second quarter. Scott scored on an 81-yard run and an 82-yard kickoff return and Tammer Alzer returned an interception 40 yards for the first Cedar Park touchdown of the game.
Lucas Bardshar kicked a 26-yard field goal as the first half clock expired.
Manvel scored on the second play of the second half when Garrison Johnson broke off a 54-yard run up the middle and Johnson came up with his second interception of the game and returned it 64 yards later in the quarter.
“It’s been a wild ride,” senior Payden Sawicki said. “I love this team and all these guys. They’ll always have a special place in my heart. (Manvel is) a great team and I respect those guys. I’m rooting for them.”
The Timberwolves have won at least 11 in every season for eight straight seasons, a span that includes two state titles and a state runner-up finish.
As Abseck gathered the team on the field after the game, each player had the chance to speak about what the team meant to them. Of course, there were tears. Even Mak Sexton, who broke his leg during the district schedule, spoke as he embraced the team that he won a state title with three seasons ago.
“We’re going to reflect back and be proud of what we did,” Abseck said. “But for our younger kids and the guys coming back we go to work pretty quick. We’ll talk about it early next week and by Thursday, we’ll go to work preparing for next year.”