McCallum right-hander Mason Bryant, who is committed to pitch for the University of Texas baseball team next school year, relies on pure power to dominate batters.
But the 6-foot-4 Bryant threw Alice a curveball late in the first half of McCallum’s 33-8 victory Saturday in a Class 5A, Division II regional semifinal. A receiver for the Knights’ football team, Bryant leaped above a trio of Alice defenders on the final play of the half to haul in a 47-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Max Perez.
The play inside the Alamodome not only gave the Knights a 14-8 lead at the break, but it also provided a sudden shift in momentum, which McCallum carried through the second half while advancing to the state quarterfinals for the first time. The Knights (13-0) will play Corpus Christi Calallen (13-0) next Saturday at noon in the Alamodome.
“I just appreciate Max trusting me and throwing the ball up and letting me make a play,” said Bryant, who had four catches for 103 yards as well as a 26-yard run on a botched punt attempt just before his touchdown catch. “We were definitely surprised we had a lead going into the second half.”
“That was big, right there,” said McCallum coach Charles Taylor of Bryant’s catch. “To get that momentum was big. (The Coyotes) came out down a little bit in the second half, and we got after them pretty good.”
McCallum’s defense got after a potent Alice team that had scored more than 40 points in each of its past three games . Defensive end Jack Switzer had three of McCallum’s six sacks, and linebacker Jackson Masters led a stellar run defense for the Knights.
Alice had just 44 of its 182 yards in the second half. Quarterback Trey Jaramillo, who had 409 yards of total offense in a triple-overtime victory over Mission Sharyland last week, managed just 22 yards rushing and 127 yards on 9-of-27 passing.
“We just couldn’t get going like we have the last few weeks,” said Alice coach Kyle Atwood, whose team finished 9-4. “They did a good job with some of the things they did in (pass coverage). We got stuck running the ball, and they’re very good in the box. That No. 44 (Masters), boy, he’s a good player.
“With what we do, we have to establish a running game. And we were unable to do that tonight.”
In contrast, McCallum cranked up its running game in the second half. Aside from a 61-yard touchdown run by Perez in the first quarter, the Knights had just 21 yards rushing before the break, but a physical line led by left tackle Judah Copeland began to grind down the Coyotes, and McCallum ended the game with 258 yards on 37 carries.
McCallum senior Alexander Julian, who had more than 2,000 yards rushing through the first 12 weeks of the season, finished with 100 yards and two touchdowns Saturday on 13 carries after tallying minus-3 yards in the first half.
Next week, McCallum will continue the best season in school history. The Knights recorded their first perfect regular season since 1966 this fall, and now they’re enjoying the program’s longest playoff run. The 2005 squad reached the third round of the playoffs before losing to Corpus Christi Calallen.