With the season on the line, Allen put the football in Brock Sturges’ capable hands.
Sturges, an Arizona State-bound running back, rushed for 176 yards Saturday and helped the Eagles run out the clock in the fourth quarter of their 35-33 victory over Lake Travis in the Class 6A, Division I final at AT&T Stadium.
In defeat, Lake Travis (13-3) gave a gutty effort after falling behind by three touchdowns in the first quarter. The Cavaliers ushered in the Hudson Card era after starting quarterback Matthew Baldwin, a senior who signed with Ohio State this week, reinjured his right knee on the game’s first play.
Card, a sophomore, nearly guided his team to a stunning comeback, passing for 224 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 73 yards and a score. With Allen nursing its 35-33 lead, Cavaliers fans in the crowd of 43,191 were hoping their team would have the chance for one more drive after Allen safety Taj Bickham intercepted a Card pass with 6:02 to go in the game.
Lake Travis defensive end Kade Langston summed up his team’s frustration after watching Allen earn four first downs to run out the clock.
“We’re all pretty tired,” Langston said. “It was a long game, and we just couldn’t get a stop when we needed to.”
Trailing 21-17 at halftime, Lake Travis took its first lead when sophomore defensive back Kyle Eaves intercepted a Grant Tisdale pass and rumbled 28 yards for a touchdown.
The injury to Baldwin — who initially hurt his right knee last week against Katy — shook the Cavaliers.
Baldwin dropped back to pass on the game’s first offensive play Saturday, and his knee buckled. Baldwin dropped the football at the Cavaliers’ 14 as he reached down to clutch his knee. Allen lineman Jayden Jernigan scooped up the loose ball and trotted into the end zone for an easy touchdown.
Just 14 seconds into their third straight state championship game, the Cavaliers trailed 7-0 and their offensive leader was in the locker room. Baldwin finished his senior season with 44 touchdown passes against six interceptions.
Allen then pounded Lake Travis — the defending 6A, Division I champion — with a relentless running game led by Sturges, who carried 32 times. He gashed the Cavaliers’ defense for 104 yards in the first half, and his touchdowns on consecutive drives gave Allen a 21-0 edge midway through the first quarter.
That’s when Lake Travis senior Nathan Parodi ignited a comeback.
After Sturges’ second touchdown, Parodi returned the kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown. “One play,” he said, “can change the course of an entire game.”
Parodi’s touchdown revived the Cavaliers as Card capped an 11-play, 87-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, cutting the deficit to 21-14 in the second quarter. Texas-bound kicker Cameron Dicker’s 32-yard field goal with 5:47 to play trimmed Allen’s lead to 21-17 at halftime.
“When you play a team like LT, it’s going to be the whole four quarters,” Allen coach Terry Gambill said.
Lake Travis wide receiver Garrett Wilson capped a brilliant junior season, catching eight passes for 99 yards. Overall, though, the day belonged to Sturges, who was named the game’s MVP.
“This means the world to us,” he said. “We wanted to win it for the city. I just wanted to grind, grind, grind, use my power. We knew Lake Travis wasn’t going to give up.”
Lake Travis is 6-2 in state championship games. The Cavaliers won five straight Class 4A titles (now Class 5A) in 2007-11, and they defeated The Woodlands last season in the Class 6A, Division I final.
Baldwin said he prepared all week believing he would be able to play a complete game against Allen. He credited Card for giving the Cavaliers an opportunity to win.
“I don’t know if we’re going to make it to the state championship game again next year, but we’re going to try like heck,” Lake Travis coach Hank Carter said.